Cover image for Shooting at the stars : the Christmas truce of 1914
Shooting at the stars : the Christmas truce of 1914
Hendrix, John, 1976-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2014.
Physical Description:
39 pages : color illustrations ; 26 x 29 cm
In 1914 France, a British soldier writes to his mother about the strange events of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, when German and Allied soldiers met on neutral ground to share songs, food, and fun. Includes historical notes and glossary.
Reading Level:
830 Lexile.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
J PIC BOOK Juvenile Fiction Holiday
J PIC BOOK Juvenile Current Holiday Item Childrens Area-Holiday
J PIC BOOK Juvenile Current Holiday Item Holiday
J PIC BOOK Juvenile Current Holiday Item Holiday
J PIC BOOK Juvenile Current Holiday Item Holiday

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Shooting at the Stars is the moving story of a young British soldier on the front lines during World War I who experiences an unforgettable Christmas Eve. In a letter home to his mother, he describes how, despite fierce fighting earlier from both sides, Allied and German soldiers ceased firing and came together on the battlefield to celebrate the holiday. They sang carols, exchanged gifts, and even lit Christmas trees. But as the holiday came to a close, they returned to their separate trenches to await orders for the war to begin again. John Hendrix wonderfully brings this story to life, interweaving fact and fiction along with his detailed illustrations and hand-lettered text. His story celebrates the humanity and kindness that can persist even during the darkest periods of our history. Back matter includes a glossary, additional information about World War I and the Christmas Truce and its aftermath, and an archival photograph taken during the Truce.

Also available by John Hendrix: Miracle Man

Praise for Shooting at the Stars
"Few titles at this level convey the futility of World War I as well as this one does. A first choice."
-- School Library Journal , starred review

"Timed with the centenary of World War I but a lesson for always, Hendrix's tale pulls young readers close and shows the human side of war."
-- Kirkus Reviews , starred review

Author Notes

John Hendrix's books include John Brown: His Fight for Freedom , a Publishers Weekly Best Book and New York Public Library Top 100 Book, and Nurse, Soldier, Spy , by Marissa Moss, which received a Eureka! Children's Book Award and Booklist Editor's Choice Award. He lives in St. Louis, Missouri.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

*Starred Review* During the trench warfare in northern France in WWI, enemies were often separated by less than 100 feet. On Christmas Eve in the bitter winter of 1914, a virtual miracle occurred. Enemies on both sides stopped fighting and began to sing Silent Night while brightly lit Christmas trees dotted the tops of the trenches. On Christmas Day, enemy soldiers walked into the open ground between the trenches and shook hands. They buried their dead, and then the soldiers took photos of each other and exchanged biscuits and buttons and belts from their uniforms as souvenirs. Although the text is fictionalized and written as a poignant letter from a soldier, the author's note explains the incident is well documented from letters and interviews. Illustrations in graphite, fluid acrylic washes, and gouache capture well the unlikely events and bring humanity to individual soldiers' faces. Vivid details of the trenches protected by barbed wire and the soldiers' uniforms alternate with the desolate landscape of mud, snow, and battered tree stumps. Meanwhile, glowing stars and sunlit skies look on impersonally on the day war took a holiday. --Gepson, Lolly Copyright 2014 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Inspired by the uplifting true story of German, French and English soldiers who fashioned an unofficial truce on Christmas Day, Hendrix crafts an intimate fictional account of the event, framed as a young British soldier's letter to his mother. In hand-lettered text and a simply drawn map, Charlie describes the brutal conditions of fighting and living in the trenches during a cold, wet winter on the French-Belgian border. But gloom gives way to joy, astonishment, and hope as he witnesses enemies put aside their differences and celebrate their commonality. A scene of miniature candlelit Christmas trees aglow above the German trench, as the lyrics to "Silent Night" float across the page, is just one of several powerful images. An author's note, glossary, and bibliography may serve as jumping off points for budding history buffs. Ages 8-12. Agent: Rebecca Sherman, Writers House. (Oct.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

School Library Journal Review

Gr 3-5-A two-page explanation of the Christmas Day truce of 1914 precedes the fictionalized account of this unusual occasion. In a letter to his mother, a young English soldier describes the events of that unique day when, at the invitation of a German officer, the English Doughboys left their trenches and met their enemies in No Man's Land. The young man describes how they helped one another bury the dead; traded personal items such as hats, buttons, and buckles; shared their rations, and played football (soccer) with a biscuit tin. The day ends with the soldiers returning to their respective trenches. An angry English major soon appears on the scene, accusing his troops of being traitors. The book's title comes from the narrator's knowledge that his side will soon be ordered to fire on their new friends, but he figures that they will be shooting upward at the stars, rather than across at the Germans. The illustrations, in graphite, fluid acrylic washes, and gouache in dark blues, greens, oranges, and yellows are a perfect fit for the narrative. Most of the text appears in a typical serif font, but parts appear as a hand-printed letter. The title concludes with a well-written author's note. Few titles at this level convey the futility of World War I as well as this one does. A first choice.-Eldon Younce, Anthony Public Library, KS (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.