I think this fictionalized account of the famous Christmas Truce of 1914 does an excellent job of summarizing for kids not only the background of World War I but some of the moral and philosophical issues of war.
Charlie is a young British soldier who writes home to his mom to tell her about the impromptu truce and Christmas celebration that day between British and German soldiers. On that day, the soldiers entrenched along the French-Belgian border met in the center of “No Man’s Land” between the two armies. They each buried their dead, and then found themselves wishing each other Merry Christmas. Before long, they were exchanging food and gifts.
They even started playing a game of football with an empty biscuit tin as the ball. [An actual match was played between the 133rd Royal Saxon Regiment of Germany and Scottish troops, with the Germans winning the match 3 to 2.]
At the end of the day the Major appeared and was furious at the men, ordering them to be ready to fire on the German trenches when he returned. Charlie writes his mother:
“…I suspect our side will spend the rest of the night aiming high above their trench, shooting at the stars.”
The book concludes with an Author’s Note, glossary, bibliography, and even an index, highly unusual in a picture book.
The author, who is also the illustrator (and one with many, many awards), has create a hybrid of children’s book and graphic novel, which will appeal to the older group of children to whom this book is directed (the recommended age group is 8–12). The epistolary style also contributes to the graphic-novel feel. The text mixes hand-lettering with standard text blocks, and the palette switches from luminous nighttime scenes done in blues, aquas and teals to more trench-and mud-appropriate colors for the daytime scenes.
Evaluation: This is an excellent book that will show kids the “human” side of war, and help raise up many discussion questions about war generally.
Published by Abrams Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Abrams, 2014