Project Description


Christmas in the Trenches

by John McCutcheon
illustrated by Henri Sorensen

This moving tribute to the power of the human spirit to unite people even in times of battle is based on an actual event from World War I.

It is cold and clear on Christmas Eve night in 1914. Francis Tolliver and his fellow British soldiers are holed up in muddy trenches along the Western Front. Their enemies—German soldiers—lie in wait just across a field known as “No Man’s Land.”

Suddenly a strange sound pierces the darkness. Someone is singing a Christmas carol in German. Other German voices join in. When the song ends, Thomas and the other British soldiers sing “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.” Soon carols are sung back and forth across No Man’s Land. Then a figure emerges in the dark, carrying a small Christmas tree with lighted candles. Slowly the British and German soldiers leave their trenches, and the war, behind to stand together in the open field.

This haunting story is based on an event in World War I known as the Christmas Truce and is adapted by award-winning songwriter John McCutcheon from his song of the same name. Henri Sørensen’s formal, full-color oil paintings reinforce the emotional power and dignity of the story. The result is a timeless tale that will capture the imagination of readers of all ages.
Christmas bonus! A CD featuring readings of the story and recordings of “Silent Night” and “Christmas in the Trenches” is included in every book.

Intrigued by the story of the Christmas Truce? Interested in learning more about the history and soldiers of World War I? Check out to learn more about this wonderful book.

Hardcover with CD: $19.95
ISBN: 978-1-56145-374-0
Total Pages: 32
Size: 16 5/8 x 10
Language: English
Accelerated Reader
AR Quiz#: 111651
AR Reading Level: 3.2
AR Points: 0.5

F&P (Fountas & Pinnell)
F&P Level: T
F&P Grade: 5

Reading Counts
Reading Counts Level: 2.7
Reading Counts Points: 1


“Sorensen’s atmospheric oil paintings bring the miraculous night of peace to life with a wide, double-page spread that allows room to show many soldiers at once as well as the expanse of the battlefield.” ―Kirkus Reviews

“…clear and lyrical. Sorensen’s beautiful double-page spreads in sepia shades show the young men from the two sides celebrating together-with individuals just like them. Lengthy notes fill in the history and present an impassioned call for peace.” ―Booklist

“…a beautiful gift item for young and old.” ―Bland County Messenger

“…beautifully illustrated…” ―The Post and Courier

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“…Henri Sorensen’s illustrations seemlessly reflect the spirit of the occasion and transport the reader back into the events and feelings being portrayed.” ―Celebrations of Learning blog

“Retold songs don’t always make the best picture book texts, but this book is an exception to that rule. McCutcheon adds details that children need to the text, and Sorensen provides panoramic views of the battlefield and trenches…” ―Anita Silvey’s Children’s Book-a-Day Almanac blog

“This children’s storybook is a good introduction to [the WWI era] as well as a telling that the human spirit can surpass the evil that is war.” ―Chat with Vera blog

“This is another ‘miracle’ book that will touch your heart.” ―Hundred Book Pile-up blog

“This is a touching story of the spirit of the holidays…the impact of the war and all the lives lost is not lost on this one night that both sides came together to celebrate Christmas…Powerful stuff!” ―Momma’s Bacon blog

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Grammy Awards (nominee, Best Spoken Word Album for Children) ―The Recording Academy 2007

Notable Books for a Global Society ―International Reading Association 2007

Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People ―NCSS/CBC 2007

Teachers’ Choices (intermediate) ―IRA 2007

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Parents’ Choice Silver Honor ―Parents’ Choice Foundation 2006

The Original Art ―The Society of Illustrators 2006

Comstock Honor Book ―Minnesota State University Moorhead 2007

Storytelling World Resource Awards (honor, Special Storytelling Resources) ―Storytelling World magazine 2008

The Best Read Aloud Picture Books ―Curriculum Materials Center at Minnesota State University Moorhead

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Meet the Author

John McCutcheon is an accomplished instrumentalist, singer, and songwriter. He has received multiple Grammy nominations and numerous other awards, and regularly appears on National Public Radio. He lives in Georgia. You can visit his website here.

Meet the Illustrator

Henri Sorensen has illustrated over twenty books for children, including The Yellow Star, The Printer, and Christmas in the Trenches. He is also the author-illustrator of two children’s books, New Hope and Your First Step. Sorensen lives in Denmark.