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Shooting at the Stars: The Christmas Truce of 1914
     

Shooting at the Stars: The Christmas Truce of 1914

by John Hendrix
 

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Shooting at the Stars is the moving story of a young British soldier on the front lines during World War I who experiences an unforgettable Christmas Eve. In a letter home to his mother, he describes how, despite fierce fighting earlier from both sides, Allied and German soldiers ceased firing and came together on the battlefield to celebrate the holiday.

Overview


Shooting at the Stars is the moving story of a young British soldier on the front lines during World War I who experiences an unforgettable Christmas Eve. In a letter home to his mother, he describes how, despite fierce fighting earlier from both sides, Allied and German soldiers ceased firing and came together on the battlefield to celebrate the holiday. They sang carols, exchanged gifts, and even lit Christmas trees. But as the holiday came to a close, they returned to their separate trenches to await orders for the war to begin again.
John Hendrix wonderfully brings this story to life, interweaving fact and fiction along with his detailed illustrations and hand-lettered text. His story celebrates the humanity and kindness that can persist even during the darkest periods of our history. Back matter includes a glossary, additional information about World War I and the Christmas Truce and its aftermath, and an archival photograph taken during the Truce.

Also available by John Hendrix: Miracle Man

Praise for Shooting at the Stars
STARRED REVIEWS
"Few titles at this level convey the futility of World War I as well as this one does. A first choice."
--School Library Journal, starred review

"Timed with the centenary of World War I but a lesson for always, Hendrix's tale pulls young readers close and shows the human side of war."
--Kirkus Reviews, starred review

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Marjorie Ingall
The art is a fascinating mix of cartoonish…and cinematic…It's an ambitious and nuanced book, one that adults will need to talk about with kids. It's an antiwar story that doesn't demonize soldiers; it's a response to people who see religion as a divisive force; it's an opportunity to explain the challenges of historical fiction.
Publishers Weekly
★ 09/15/2014
Inspired by the uplifting true story of German, French and English soldiers who fashioned an unofficial truce on Christmas Day, Hendrix crafts an intimate fictional account of the event, framed as a young British soldier’s letter to his mother. In hand-lettered text and a simply drawn map, Charlie describes the brutal conditions of fighting and living in the trenches during a cold, wet winter on the French-Belgian border. But gloom gives way to joy, astonishment, and hope as he witnesses enemies put aside their differences and celebrate their commonality. A scene of miniature candlelit Christmas trees aglow above the German trench, as the lyrics to “Silent Night” float across the page, is just one of several powerful images. An author’s note, glossary, and bibliography may serve as jumping off points for budding history buffs. Ages 8–12. Agent: Rebecca Sherman, Writers House. (Oct.)
The Horn Book Magazine - Roger Sutton

"While not shying away from war’s grim realities, the pictures go a long way toward conveying the hopeful light of the German Christmas trees twinkling in the night while the strains of “Stille Nacht” waft across No Man’s Land toward our homesick hero."
Library Media Connection - Jo Drudge

STARRED REVIEW
"The acrylic and gouache illustrations tell a tale of their own. Not only is this an impressive Christmas story, but it shows the humanity of warring soldiers."
The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

"Soldier Charlie is affectionately depicted as a freckle-faced youngster among war-worn older men, and his status as a newcomer to battle lends credibility to the combination of playfulness and awe with which he regards the truce."
Children's Literature - Jean Boreen
This story highlights the letters written home by a World War I British soldier named Charlie who is “dug in” to a trench on the French-Belgium border. His letters chronicle his amazement and then feelings of camaraderie when the German soldiers, positioned across “No Man’s Land” begin singing “Silent Night” as they put up small Christmas trees on their section of the battlefield. The next morning, after a German soldier asks the English soldiers where their trees are, the groups call a truce, sharing everything from conversation to jam, taking pictures of each other, and burying the dead. The camaraderie of the day inevitably brings up the question of the pointlessness of this war for the soldiers who are simply following orders. This book should appeal to a wide range of readers because of its strong illustrations and little-known story; while I have been aware of this event through other readings and a movie, this is the first time I have seen it as a picture book for younger readers and it is beautifully done. The illustrations are so well wrought and support the storyline effectively. I hope that many elementary teachers and librarians help students understand the “greyness” around the concepts of war through the use of this book. Reviewer: Jean Boreen, Ph.D.; Ages 8 to 12.
School Library Journal
★ 07/01/2014
Gr 3–5—A two-page explanation of the Christmas Day truce of 1914 precedes the fictionalized account of this unusual occasion. In a letter to his mother, a young English soldier describes the events of that unique day when, at the invitation of a German officer, the English Doughboys left their trenches and met their enemies in No Man's Land. The young man describes how they helped one another bury the dead; traded personal items such as hats, buttons, and buckles; shared their rations, and played football (soccer) with a biscuit tin. The day ends with the soldiers returning to their respective trenches. An angry English major soon appears on the scene, accusing his troops of being traitors. The book's title comes from the narrator's knowledge that his side will soon be ordered to fire on their new friends, but he figures that they will be shooting upward at the stars, rather than across at the Germans. The illustrations, in graphite, fluid acrylic washes, and gouache in dark blues, greens, oranges, and yellows are a perfect fit for the narrative. Most of the text appears in a typical serif font, but parts appear as a hand-printed letter. The title concludes with a well-written author's note. Few titles at this level convey the futility of World War I as well as this one does. A first choice.—Eldon Younce, Anthony Public Library, KS
Kirkus Reviews
★ 2014-07-29
A fictionalized account—based on letters from and interviews with actual soldiers—of the holiday cease-fire during World War I. In epistolary design, Charlie, a young British soldier, writes home from his trench to tell his mother of an extraordinary event that happened that day. After months of fighting, Christmas Eve did not seem like an occasion for joy. But shockingly, German soldiers, only a few paces away in their own muddy trenches, lit tiny Christmas trees and sang "Silent Night" as loud as they could. The next morning, all soldiers came together on the battlefield to celebrate. Some also shared a deep connection while burying their fallen comrades. The truce didn't last, but its power has resonated for decades. As Hendrix states simply in his author's note: "The story of the Christmas Truce is not about politics, but people." Told from Charlie's perspective, occasionally in handwritten lettering, the story's immensity and emotion is palpable. Cold, blue-tinted acrylic washes warm to golden oranges and yellows as the soldiers unite. One soldier's weary reflection, surely echoing that of many others, stretches out across the page: "Why can't we just go home—and have peace?" Timed with the centenary of World War I but a lesson for always, Hendrix's tale pulls young readers close and shows the human side of war. (introduction, glossary, bibliography, index) (Picture book. 7-12)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781419711756
Publisher:
Abrams, Harry N., Inc.
Publication date:
10/07/2014
Pages:
40
Sales rank:
284,068
Product dimensions:
9.80(w) x 11.30(h) x 0.70(d)
Lexile:
830L (what's this?)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Meet the Author


John Hendrix’s books include John Brown: His Fight for Freedom, a Publishers Weekly Best Book and New York Public Library Top 100 Book, and Nurse, Soldier, Spy, by Marissa Moss, which received a Eureka! Children’s Book Award and Booklist Editor’s Choice Award. He lives in St. Louis, Missouri.

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