christmas truceBy Hilary Robinson and Martin Impey

Strauss House Publications (2014)

36pp; extensively illustrated

ISBN 978-0-9571245-7-8

'The Christmas Truce' is a delightful rhyme about the First World War, and is in a similar vein to 'Where the Poppies Now Grow', also written by Robinson and Impey. Both books highlight the human qualities that all people share, despite the tragedy and destruction associated with combat. This particular book focuses on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day 1914, when British and German soldiers met in No Man's Land to celebrate the festive season. The authors describe it as 'The Place Where Peace Was Found'. The passage of time is evidenced too, with a lighted candle, which gradually burns down as each page is turned, suggesting that the peace cannot last.

Again, just like 'Where the Poppies Now Grow', the illustrations are superb. The colour blue is predominant, allowing the glow from candles and moonlight to provide a halo effect. This again suggests it is a hallowed time. Children will enjoy joining in with the rhythm and rhyme of the story; such as 'To echoes of bells that started to chime When friends were made at Christmas t...'. They will also enjoy searching the pages for two characters, which cheekily appear in unexpected places, the robin redbreast on the German side and the little brown mouse on the British side.

This is a poignant tale, which I am sure, children in the 3-8 years age group will enjoy. Just as in, 'Where the Poppies Now Grow', it will prepare them for learning about the First World War, in a way that reinforces key ideas and themes.

Reviewed by Wendy Thompson BEd MA

poppies cover

Strauss House Publications (2014)

ISBN: 978-0-9571245-8-5

Paperback; 36pp; extensive colour illustrations

There is a great deal of evidence to show that young children learn to read and understand words through rhyme (DES 2013) and repetition (Mercer 2000). Identifying patterns of rhythm, rhyme and sounds within texts is an important aspect of early years education, particularly, when children are first learning to read.

'Where the Poppies Now Grow' is a delightful rhyme about the First World War, highlighting the tragedy and valour associated with combat. It is taken from the perspective of two small boys, friends in 1909, who enjoy playing together in 'the field where the poppies now grow'. The boys grow up and are on the battlefield 'barren and stark', where one of them is 'left to die in the cold and the dirt'. The other risks his life to save a fellow soldier, who turns out to be his childhood friend. Comparisons with the song Two Little Boys are inevitable but this does not detract from a very important message about courage and empathy.

The illustrations are superb, particularly those depicting the trenches, with the dark skies suggesting the brooding menace of warfare. Humour is evident, too, with a little mouse which follows the comrades through to old age. Children will enjoy searching the pages for this character, which cheekily appears in unexpected places. Children will also enjoy filling in the blank spaces, when an adult or more confident reader reads the rhyme to them. Rhyming words like 'hurt and dirt' or 'dark and stark' are repeated through the book and clearly emphasise the fearful elements of trench warfare.

I am sure that children in the 3-7 years age group will enjoy this book, and it will prepare them, with an early foundation, for learning about the First World War.

Wendy J Thompson BEd MA


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