Among the many entries celebrating this event’s centennial, librarians and teachers should welcome this historically...

CHRISTMAS TRUCE

Veteran children’s author Aaron Shepard (The Baker’s Dozen, 2010, etc.) tells the true story of how World War I troops on both sides of the trenches spontaneously observed Christmas 1914 together.

Drawing on documentary footage and soldiers’ letters and diaries, Shepard creates Tom, a composite British soldier writing his sister about this extraordinary event. Stilted language sometimes sits side by side with a conversational tone: “In truth, what happened seems almost like a fairy tale, and if I hadn’t been through it myself, I would scarce believe it. Just imagine: While you and the family sang carols before the fire there in London, I did the same with enemy soldiers here on the battlefields of France!” A long passage describes life in the trenches—the fear, the waiting, the rain, the mud. Fittingly, the realistic illustrations start in shades of mud brown, relieved pages later by the frosty blue hues of a magical sight—twinkling lights from a row of Christmas trees on the German line. Shepard weaves in reminders of time and place: “Stille nacht, heilige nacht….This carol may not yet be familiar to us in Britain, but [a soldier friend] knew it and translated: ‘Silent night, holy night.’ ” After trading their countries’ favorite Christmas carols, “there we were in No Man’s Land, over a hundred soldiers and officers of each side, shaking hands with men we’d been trying to kill just hours earlier!” In a subsequent illustration, a bonfire casts its glow over the frosty gathering. They exchange family photos, mementos and newspapers, and Tom muses, “These are not the ‘savage barbarians’ we’ve read so much about. They are men…like ourselves.” Noting that the soldiers will dutifully resume fighting after this Christmas outbreak of peace, Tom offers food for thought: “All nations say they want peace. Yet on this Christmas morning, I wonder if we want it quite enough.” An author’s note places this event in historical context and dispels some popular misconceptions.

Among the many entries celebrating this event’s centennial, librarians and teachers should welcome this historically accurate telling for ages 9 and up.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-938497-62-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Shepard Publications

Review Posted Online: Aug. 11, 2014

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Not for the faint-hearted—who are mostly adults anyway—but for stouthearted kids who love a brush with the sinister:...

CORALINE

A magnificently creepy fantasy pits a bright, bored little girl against a soul-eating horror that inhabits the reality right next door.

Coraline’s parents are loving, but really too busy to play with her, so she amuses herself by exploring her family’s new flat. A drawing-room door that opens onto a brick wall becomes a natural magnet for the curious little girl, and she is only half-surprised when, one day, the door opens onto a hallway and Coraline finds herself in a skewed mirror of her own flat, complete with skewed, button-eyed versions of her own parents. This is Gaiman’s (American Gods, 2001, etc.) first novel for children, and the author of the Sandman graphic novels here shows a sure sense of a child’s fears—and the child’s ability to overcome those fears. “I will be brave,” thinks Coraline. “No, I am brave.” When Coraline realizes that her other mother has not only stolen her real parents but has also stolen the souls of other children before her, she resolves to free her parents and to find the lost souls by matching her wits against the not-mother. The narrative hews closely to a child’s-eye perspective: Coraline never really tries to understand what has happened or to fathom the nature of the other mother; she simply focuses on getting her parents back and thwarting the other mother for good. Her ability to accept and cope with the surreality of the other flat springs from the child’s ability to accept, without question, the eccentricity and arbitrariness of her own—and every child’s own—reality. As Coraline’s quest picks up its pace, the parallel world she finds herself trapped in grows ever more monstrous, generating some deliciously eerie descriptive writing.

Not for the faint-hearted—who are mostly adults anyway—but for stouthearted kids who love a brush with the sinister: Coraline is spot on. (Fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: July 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-380-97778-8

Page Count: 176

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2002

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NIM'S ISLAND

A child finds that being alone in a tiny tropical paradise has its ups and downs in this appealingly offbeat tale from the Australian author of Peeling the Onion (1999). Though her mother is long dead and her scientist father Jack has just sailed off on a quick expedition to gather plankton, Nim is anything but lonely on her small island home. Not only does she have constant companions in Selkie, a sea lion, and a marine iguana named Fred, but Chica, a green turtle, has just arrived for an annual egg-laying—and, through the solar-powered laptop, she has even made a new e-mail friend in famed adventure novelist Alex Rover. Then a string of mishaps darkens Nim’s sunny skies: her father loses rudder and dish antenna in a storm; a tourist ship that was involved in her mother’s death appears off the island’s reefs; and, running down a volcanic slope, Nim takes a nasty spill that leaves her feverish, with an infected knee. Though she lives halfway around the world and is in reality a decidedly unadventurous urbanite, Alex, short for “Alexandra,” sets off to the rescue, arriving in the midst of another storm that requires Nim and companions to rescue her. Once Jack brings his battered boat limping home, the stage is set for sunny days again. Plenty of comic, freely-sketched line drawings help to keep the tone light, and Nim, with her unusual associates and just-right mix of self-reliance and vulnerability, makes a character young readers won’t soon tire of. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-375-81123-0

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2000

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