Shooting at the Stars: The Christmas Truce of 1914 is the newest book from a longtime favorite of mine, John Hendrix, and the second that Hendrix illustrated and authored himself. Commemorating the 100th anniversary of World War I, Herndrix turns his thoughtful eye to a humane moment in the midst of an inhumane period of history, telling the story of the incredible Christmas Truce between Allied and German soldiers through the letters of a fictional British soldier and, of course, with his amazing illustrations. As Marjorie Ingall shrewdly noted in her review of Shooting at the Stars: The Christmas Truce of 1914 for the New York Times, this book would have made a fantastic graphic novel. Hopefully something of the sort is in Hendrix's future?
Hendrix's illustrations are the perfect mix of styles that can take the edge off of a more serious story while also making it more readily understandable. Also, I can't put my finger on exactly what it is, but there is something about Hendrix's work that feels distinctly American to me, in the best way possible. The faces of his characters can be cartoonish at times, but his palette and presentation are, as Ingall's notes, "cinematic" and capable of conveying the drama and humanity of whatever story he is telling, whether it is Charles Dickens's childhood stint in the poorhouse or Sara Edmond's life passing as a male soldier fighting in the Civil War.
Hendrix begins Shooting at the Stars: The Christmas Truce of 1914 with two pages of informational text that set the stage for the epistolary tale to come. Letters home to mom from a young British soldier appear as text on the page and can also be read in letter form, as part of the illustrations. The truce begins surprisingly and somewhat humorously, but Hendrix does not shy away from the fact that the truce also allows both sides to bury their dead who had fallen in No Man's Land. And, while the enemies find themselves sharing biscuits then kicking around the empty tin like a football, there are also repercussions and recriminations from the higher-ups. An Author's Note at the end of the book, along with a glossary, makes for a nice bookend to this amazing bit of history.
Coming in March from John Hendrix!!
Written and Illustrated by John Hendrix:
Illustrated by John Hendrix:
Nurse, Soldier, Spy by Marissa Moss