Friday, December 26, 2014

A Picture Book a Day for a Year: Day 251

Picture Book: Shooting at the Stars: The Christmas Truce of 1914

Author & Illustrator: John Hendrix

Summary: A letter to his mother from Charlie, a fictional British WWI soldier, serves as the framework for this tale of one of the many Christmas truces between the trenches in 1914. This was just a few months after war had been declared. In this case, the temporary cease fire begins with Christmas carols heard from the German trenches. Then small Christmas trees appear. Next a can of jam is thrown from the British trench. A British and a German officer meet in the middle of the battleground, shake hands, and signal their soldiers to come forward. Soldiers from both sides come together in “no man’s land.” First together they bury their dead. Then trading tokens to substitute for Christmas gifts begins. Photographs are taken. One is in the back of the book. A furious British Major arrives and orders them to begin shooting. Charlie suspects they will aim high, shooting at the stars at least for a while. Apart from the story, you’ll find a detailed Introduction and Author’s Note which explain the complications of WWI and why there were no more Christmas truces in the remaining years of the war. A glossary, bibliography, and index are in the back too.

Hanna’s Comments: Thematically, this story and its supplemental material emphasize the contrast between the suffering soldiers stuck in the trenches who long for peace and the outside political and military forces that keep them there for 4 long years. It is a hard story to hear but an important one. Non-Christians should be comfortable using this book since Christian doctrine is not mentioned.  

Publisher & Date of Publication: Harry N. Abrams, 2014

Age & Grade Appropriateness: 8 and up, 3rd and up

# of Pages: 40

Available in Spanish?  Not at present

Formats other than Book: Tablet

PBT Category: Fresh off the Press, Non-fiction

PBT Topics this Book Connects with: acceptance, action, adaptation/assimilation, bonds/connections, bravery/courage, brokenness, choir/music/singing/songs, conflict, danger, enemies, Europe, memories/remembering/ritual/tradition, pacifism/peace/peacemakers, surprise, trust/trustworthiness, violence, war/war veterans, wisdom

Scripture Connections: When the ways of people please the Lord, he causes even their enemies to be at peace with them (Proverbs 16:7); blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God (Matthew 5:9); if possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all (Romans 12:18); let him seek peace and pursue it (1 Peter 3:11)

Idea(s) for Application: This would be a great book to read to an audience of elementary age and up during the week before Christmas. Emphasize the theme of peace and how it requires risk and trust. Consider today's battles, military and otherwise to make this book particularly meaningful. It seems lately, peace isn't easy in the mildest of circumstances. 

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