Truce by Jim Murphy
“Truce” is the story of a brief moment in World War I where many of the soldiers on both sides of the trenches along the infamous Western Front, decided to ignore their superior officers and fraternize with the enemy in honor of the Christmas holiday.
The author sets the stage for this event by explaining the political scenario in Europe at the turn of the century in very approachable terms. It almost sounds like playground politics as he explains the alliances and anxieties of the various countries involved, and certainly makes the complex situation easily understandable by the average middle school reader. I am not a history buff, but came away feeling I had a real sense of the egos and ambitions of the leaders of the time, why the antagonisms escalated, and where things went wrong in the process of trying to avert war.
This is one of the best books for kids I have read in a very long time. I decided to give it a try for my 5th and 6th grade book club December choice, because we hadn’t ever done a non-fiction book, and I was looking for something stimulating and seasonal. This book has been on the middle school summer reading list for several years, so I anticipated it would be well written, and the focus of the book is an incident that occurred at Christmas time. I found it a surprisingly quick and engrossing read. But the big revelation for me was how much the kids in my group enjoyed it. I had a full complement at our book club meeting, including one young man who hadn’t attended since last year! This book stimulated one of the most thought provoking and spirited conversations my book club has ever had. The kids really liked this book, in spite of some graphic pictures. One girl commented that she just kept coming back to the idea that the war never needed to happen. The irony and absurdity of that juxtaposed with the total devastation caused was mind numbing to her.
I would highly recommend this book to anyone in 6th grade up who is looking for non-fiction, a general background on World War I, a taste of world politics, or just a good read. It has certainly piqued my interest in this prolific author. I will read more of his work, cheerfully.