Reviews for Truce : The Day the Soldiers Stopped Fighting


Booklist Reviews 2009 October #2
*Starred Review* By December 1918, the western front of World War I featured two parallel trenches stretching from the North Sea to the Alps. The armies, both suffering from exposure and disease as well as enemy fire, were so close that they could sometimes hear each other talking. On Christmas Day, an informal peace broke out in many locations along the front. Soldiers gathered between the trenches to mingle, exchange small gifts, and bury their dead. It was apparently the first truce to come from the troops, rather than their leaders. Murphy's excellent telling of this unusual war story begins with an account of the events that led to WWI and follows the shift in the soldiers' mind-sets from the feverish rush to join before the war ended to the painful realization that no end was in sight. Printed in tones of sepia, the illustrations in this handsome volume include many period photos as well as paintings and maps. After discussing the book's origins, the epilogue comments on the effects of government misinformation, past and present. A time line, excellent source notes, and lists of books, movies, and Web sites are appended. Well organized and clearly written, this presentation vividly portrays the context and events of the Christmas Truce. Copyright 2009 Booklist Reviews.

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Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2009 #6
Murphy's account of the famed Christmas Truce, which spontaneously and irregularly broke out along the Western Front on Christmas Eve, 1914, occupies only the middle part of this history, which is just as it should be. The first third of the book ambitiously -- but sparely and effectively, too -- outlines the causes of the Great War, demonstrating that the alleged flashpoint of the Archduke's assassination was but an excuse for the already bristling powers to get on with the war. Murphy then moves into a close-up view of the trenches on both sides of No Man's Land, a shift in perspective thematically allied to the decisions of the foot-soldiers to stop fighting, if only for a day or two. The historical background Murphy provides gives the truce emotional resonance; his subsequent, concise summary of the next four years of carnage is all the more sobering in contrast. Plentiful photographs and period illustrations convey the paradoxes well: German corpses in a trench in France; English and German officers posing together in No Man's Land. Copyright 2009 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.

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Kirkus Reviews 2009 September #2
"Every Who / Down in Who-ville / Liked Christmas a lot… / But the Grinch, / Who lived just north of Who-ville, / Did NOT!"Christmas books started arriving last spring--imagine opening a box in May and finding it full of red, green, gold and sparkles. The mad rush to wring a few more bucks out of every passing Christmas is enough to set my Grinch fingers drumming. This season, we'll see two Nutcracker picture books, a couple of Night Before Christmases, a few Nativity tales and Tyrannoclaus, which marries two can't-beat-it concepts for kids--dinosaurs and acquisition (imagine that elevator pitch)--among many, many others, all rounded up in our September 15 issue.There are a few nods to "multiculturalism," with a scant handful of Hanukkah books, one lonely Kwanzaa title and a very funny anti-consumerist Solstice book, but it's clear that Christmas is the moneymaker holiday of the year, and the sheer volume of Christmas books has me plotting Grand Theft Who-hash to a Boris Karloff soundtrack: "You're a mean one…"But then I open a box containing Truce, by Jim Murphy (Scholastic, Oct. 1, 2009, $19.99, ISBN: 978-0-545-13049-3), and I think that perhaps I might sing another tune. Murphy takes his epigraph from Winston Churchill, who wondered in a November 1914 letter to his wife, "What would happen…if the armies suddenly and simultaneously went on strike and said some other method must be found of settling the dispute?" The "dispute," of course, was the Great War, the War to End All Wars until it became the First World War. And the truce of the book's title is that magical, spontaneous Christmas truce of 1914, when peace broke out all along the Western Front.Opening with a cogent recap of the state of Europe prior to the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand that focuses on those moments when war might have been averted (if Kaiser Wilhelm had read his mail on time, for instance), the author gracefully moves to the horrific conditions of battle that established the static madness of trench warfare--a madness that, oddly enough, led to enough fraternization across No Man's Land that both British and German High Commands feared what eventually happened.Drawing on a wealth of primary sources, from letters home, diaries and recollections of combatants to archival photographs and prints, the author allows the principles to speak: "Altogether we had a great day with our enemies," wrote one British private, "and parted with much handshaking and mutual goodwill."That goodwill didn't last--though in one spot in the Belgian woods the truce lasted almost till Easter--and Murphy takes readers through to the exhausting endgame that spawned the next war, but also he leaves kids with the provocative thought that war need not be inevitable, that the truce "offered reassurance that a kinder, humane spirit could prevail…" And if that doesn't make even the Grinch-iest heart grow at least three sizes, then nothing will. Who-pudding, anyone?--Vicky Smith Copyright Kirkus 2009 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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Library Media Connection Reviews 2010 January/February
As a boy growing up, I had the opportunity to talk with older relatives who fought in World War I. One event that stood out was the Christmas Truce, though I never really understood exactly what happened. This book explains the whole situation in a clear, straightforward manner that middle school students can easily understand. Murphy sets the stage by showing what Europe was like at the beginning of the 20th century. Maps and political cartoons enhance his explanation. Using battlefield photographs he shows why soldiers on both sides eagerly defied their superiors to create this ?truce,? even when they were threatened with punishment for doing so. Using quotes from letters and photographs of both sides visiting peacefully with each other, Murphy demonstrates that they knew more than their leaders?they had more in common than they had differences. In the epilogue Murphy attempts to draw parallels between the 9/11 attacks and the prelude to World War I, and I feel that some of his logic is a bit questionable. Nevertheless, the book is a good explanation of a very unusual event, and it should be available to students. Recommended. David Lininger, Library Media Specialist, Hickory County R-1 Schools, Urbana, Missouri ¬ 2010 Linworth Publishing, Inc.

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2009 October #4

Murphy's (A Savage Road to Thunder) account of the causes and first months of WWI offers a poignant and sometimes graphic introduction to the "war to end all wars." While a few of the sepia-toned photos and artwork portray haunting imagery (including one of dead bodies in a trench), the six-chapter narrative doesn't bog down in gloom and hopelessness. Instead, its focus--the Christmas truce that occurred along Western Front trenches in 1914--leaves readers with hope in the human spirit and a sense of the folly and futility of the Great War. The grainy pictures of the truce, taken with soldiers' own cameras, show combatants standing shoulder to shoulder, often smiling or exchanging gifts. "German soldiers noticed that a wooden board was being held up by British soldiers with the words 'Merry Christmas'.... Several miles away, another board appeared on the German side that read, 'You no fight, we no fight.' " Myriad quotations from young men on both sides (often taken from letters home) set a very personal tone. An extensive time line and additional source material wrap up this moving history lesson. Ages 9-12. (Oct.)

[Page 59]. Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.

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School Library Journal Reviews 2009 November

Gr 6-10--World War I was notable for incredible carnage, the complete senselessness of which was noted by both foot soldiers and such savvy statesmen as Winston Churchill. Murphy begins this history of the Christmas truce of 1914 by limning the buildup to the war. Anyone who has ever felt confused by the connection between the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand and the conflagration that followed will be vastly enlightened by Murphy's explanation, extended in the comparison, drawn in the epilogue, of Europe in 1914 to the United States just prior to attacking Iraq. The author's descriptions of the fatal collision between 19th-century battle tactics and 20th-century weaponry leave no national high command looking the least bit competent. Given this background, it is quite clear why, in December of 1914, troops (both German/Austrian and Allied) simply ceased fighting. Soldiers fraternized across the barren No Man's Land between trenches, sang together, and exchanged gifts. In some places, the truce lasted until late into the spring. Murphy's research is impeccable, and his use of primary sources is both seamless and effective. Frequent black-and-white photographs and period drawings extend the readable text. The source notes and accurate index add to the usefulness of a volume that seems designed as much as a teaching tool as for general reading. An excellent addition to middle and high school libraries, this affecting book has a place in history curricula as well.--Ann Welton, Helen B. Stafford Elementary, Tacoma, WA

[Page 134]. Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

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VOYA Reviews 2009 December
At the end of the first year of World War I, initial hopes for a quick resolution vanished. So too had the visions of glory, honor, and renown born from wars of the previous century. After a few large, devastating battles marked more by loss of life than territory won, the War settled into an uneasy stalemate, with each side facing the other from long, deep trenches, separated by a no-man's land that neither side dared cross. On Christmas 1914, the lower-ranking soldiers on both sides defied orders and openly fraternized with their counterparts in what became known as the Christmas Truce. Period photographs, cartoons, drawings, diary entries, and maps are paired with accessible text to explain the attitudes and events that led to the War, the initial flood of excitement the War brought, the horrors of the initial casualties and bloodshed, the deadly grind of trench warfare, and the hope, quickly and quietly quashed, that the Christmas Truce brought. For the most part, this book is effective. Murphy's recounting of the initial moves of the war, while deftly using period accounts to explain what it was like to be there, can be a bit difficult to follow and suffers from a lack of maps. Overall it is very readable, presented well, accessible to middle schoolers, and should appeal to many looking for material about the beginning of the War.--Steven Kral Index. Illus. Photos. Maps. Source Notes. Further Reading. Chronology. 4Q 4P M Copyright 2009 Voya Reviews.

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