Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Christmas in the Trenches

Christmas in the Trenches

John McCutcheon
Illustrator:  Henri Sorensen 
Historical Fiction Picture Book and Audio CD
For ages 5 and up
Peachtree Publishers, 2006   ISBN: 978-1561453740

When Thomas Tolliver asks his grandfather if he has a favorite Christmas, Francis Tolliver tells his grandson about a very special Christmas that he had in 1914. At that time Francis was a solider serving his country in the trenches of France. Francis had been in the battlefield for some time and it looked as if they would all be fighting right through Christmas. Christmas Eve was much like any other day. The soldiers were standing in the cold waiting to see what would happen next.

Francis and his "mates" certainly did not expect when did end up happening. It began with the German soldiers singing a Christmas song. Everyone listened and then the English soldiers sang one of their songs. Then both sides sang "Silent Night" in their own languages and at the same time.

After this little concert was over one of the German soldiers walked across No Man's Land carrying a white flag and a little Christmas tree covered with candles. What followed was an extraordinary Christmas celebration between young men who only a short time before had been trying to kill one another. For now, for a few hours, they were no longer soldiers. Instead they were sons, fathers and brothers who had families far away and who felt homesick for their loved ones and for the Christmas celebrations that were going on without them.

This story is based on real events which took place during WWI. Heartsick, miserable and longing for home Allied soldiers and German soldiers set aside the war for a short while so that they could come together to celebrate Christmas.

Beautifully told from the point of view of one of the soldiers, this is a story which will warm the hearts of readers and show them that human beings are indeed capable of setting aside their differences and that peace is not just a dream ? it is something to believe in and to work for.

This book was written by the folksinger John McCutcheon. He first wrote a song about the remarkable Christmas in the trenches and then decided that he wanted to share the story with children and so he wrote a children?s book. Included with the book is a CD. On it readers will be able to listen to the song John wrote, two readings of the story, and a performance of "Silent Night."

At the back of the book John includes an "Author's Note" which explains why he wrote the song and the book, a "Historical Note" about the real events which inspired this story, and the words and music for the song "Christmas in the Trenches."