Friday 26 September 2014

ReadItDaddy's Book of the Week - Week ending 26th September 2014 - "Shooting at the Stars - The Christmas Truce of 1914" by John Hendrix (Abrams Young Readers)

Shooting at the Stars - The Christmas Truce of 1914

Written and Illustrated by
John Hendrix

Published by Abrams Young Readers

This very special book isn't out for a few days yet (the official release date is October 1st) but we wanted to make it book of the week, so we're sneaking in a little early with our review. In this centenary year of the start of World War 1, we've seen many books both fiction and non-fiction that have given children a valuable insight into "The Great War" and the immense sacrifice generations of soldiers made in order to achieve peace.

John Hendrix's masterful story is fictional, but based on a real event. During the first year of the war, a shaky cease fire happened during the christmas period of 1914 and this story tells the tale of a soldier, Charlie, writing home to his mother about this astonishing event.

For a few short hours no bullets were fired, no shells - and British and German forces met in the middle of no mans land. Both sides achieved a temporary detente, exchanged christmas gift, even erected christmas trees above their trenches.

One quote from the book sings out and this was the quote that Charlotte seized on. "Why can't we just go home and have peace?" - in the story this line is spoken by one of the German soldiers to Charlie. Charlotte has been listening to the various news reports on the chaotic conflict in Gaza, and because of that she could draw parallels between what's happening today in our time, and what happened 100 years ago.

War is an uncomfortable subject for parents to discuss with their children, but books like this help. Books that try to demonstrate that underneath the conflict and the high ideals there are people at ground level who repeat that line like a mantra whenever fighting breaks out or some new atrocity happens in their own back yard.

A truly stunning book, thought provoking and atmospheric. John's writing and research is deep and thoughtful, heart wrenching in places as the detente dissolves and we learn that in the years to follow the shaky truce was never successfully repeated as the horrors of war eked away at both sides and their resolve.

The illustrations too are truly special (reminding me a lot of Raymond Briggs' artwork, which is definitely no bad thing). But reading Charlie's words in the story has deep impact, deep enough to make this one of the most impressive books published on the subject of WW1 in this centenary year.

Charlotte's best bit: Learning more about the conflict after we'd read the story, going through John's exhaustive glossary of terms and well researched history of the truce itself.

Daddy's Favourite bit: A truly brilliant book in every respect that will help parents and children learn more about WW1 and the amazing truce that existed for such a short amount of time, but gave early hope that humanity could put aside conflict in the name of something better.

(Kindly sent to us for review by Abrams Chronicle Publishing)