'Truce: The Day the Soldiers Stopped Fighting'
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[January 06, 2010]
"Truce: The Day the Soldiers
Stopped Fighting," by Jim Murphy, Scholastic Press, 2009, 116 pages, ages 10 and
up. Includes timeline, index, notes, sources and bibliography.
In building our library's youth collection of nonfiction over the past
few years, I have noticed that few books are available about the history of
World War I. "The war that was fought to end all wars" turned out to be such
a disappointment, with hostilities breaking out in the larger World War II,
that it does not surprise me that the first war has received little
attention. So when I came across Jim Murphy's "Truce: The Day the Soldiers
Stopped Fighting," I was excited to find a volume to add to our library's
offering. Upon reading it, I discovered more than a historical accounting.
This book allows the reader to experience the horrific conditions of the
soldiers who risked their lives during this period in history. It gives an
account of the human goodness that transcended the war machine of
governments pitted in hatred.
For many months in the fall of 1914, soldiers of both sides were fighting
from trenches at the Western front. These battlements were mere yards from
each other, separated by a "no man's land" of craters and barbed wire. The
trenches were filled with mud, vermin, artillery and personal property of
the men. It rained so heavily for so long that conditions were barely
livable. Boredom was broken only by raids, from which only half the men sent
out returned alive. Noise and confusion filled their days and nights.
However, during the lulls in fighting, soldiers from both sides began a
series of singing and verbal exchanges.
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In Murphy's "Truce," we read about the unusual Christmas of 1914.
It started along the front when soldiers ventured across the
barricades, exchanging greetings, food, mementoes and handshakes
with enemy soldiers they had spent months trying to kill. Those in
command did not proclaim this remarkable truce. In fact, commanders
were furious with the soldiers, often threatening to shoot their own
men for not fighting the enemy. But somehow, the men themselves were
able to put down their arms and trust enough in human goodness to
meet their counterparts in peace. Of course, the fighting resumed
eventually. The war continued for several more years with more loss
of life. But for one brief period, soldiers recognized a bond of
circumstance and companionship in a way that was truly remarkable.
Although no official government photographs were taken, the book
is generously sprinkled with pictures the soldiers took themselves.
It clearly shows German, French and British soldiers exchanging
gifts and handshakes during the Christmas truce, along with other
pictures of the horrors in the trenches.
"Truce" is a gift of literature that needs to be shared. Its
message transcends the war messages of pride and loyalty, shining a
bright light on the bonds between people that warring nations have
no power to stamp out. Murphy gently reminds all of us that once the
gunfire is silenced, people will meet on common ground.
Come check it out at the Lincoln Public Library, 725 Pekin St.
[Text from file received from
Lincoln Public Library District]
(Ms. Lou's blog: