Project Description


Christmas in the Trenches

by John McCutcheon
illustrated by Henri Sorensen

A beautiful, moving holiday book about peace, understanding, and unity from award-winning musician John McCutcheon. Based on the real-life WWI event known as the Christmas Truce.

Grammy Award nominee in the Best Spoken Word Album for Children category!

It is cold and clear on Christmas Eve night in 1914. Suddenly, a strange sound pierces the darkness. Someone is singing a Christmas carol in German.

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.” As the Germans’ carol ends, Tolliver and the other British soldiers sing “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.” Soon carols are being sung back and forth. Then a figure emerges in the dark, carrying a small Christmas tree with lighted candles. The British and German soldiers slowly leave their trenches—and the war—behind to stand together in the open field.

This haunting story, based on an event in World War I known as the Christmas Truce, is adapted by award-winning songwriter John McCutcheon from his song of the same name. Henri Sørensen’s traditional, full-color oil paintings reinforce the emotional power and dignity of the story. Back matter features more information about the historical event, and a CD featuring readings of the story and recordings of “Silent Night” and “Christmas in the Trenches” is included.

Also available from John McCutcheon:
Flowers for Sarajevo


Grammy Awards (Nominee, Best Spoken Word Album for Children)
Notable Books for a Global Society ―International Reading Association
Teachers’ Choices (Intermediate) ―International Reading Association
Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People ―National Council for Social Studies, Children’s Book Council
Parents’ Choice Silver Honor ―Parents’ Choice Foundation

Format: Hardcover & CD
Price: $19.95
ISBN: 978-1-56145-374-0
Publication Date: 8/1/2006
Page Count: 32
Size: 10-5/8″ x 10″
Age Range: 6 – 10
Language: English
AR Level: 3.2
F&P: GRL T, Gr 5, Genre HF
Lexile: AD520L
Themes: Christmas, Peace, Song, WWI
BISAC 1: JUV016080 JUVENILE FICTION / Historical / Military & Wars
BISAC 2: JUV017010 JUVENILE FICTION / Holidays & Celebrations / Christmas & Advent
BISAC 3: JUV016040 JUVENILE FICTION / Historical / Europe


“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

“The text is 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

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

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“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

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

“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

“Beautifully told from the point of view of one of the soldiers, this is a story which will warm the hearts of readers and show them that human beings are indeed capable of setting aside their differences and that peace is not just a dream—it is something to believe in and to work for.” ―Through the Looking Glass



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

Notable Books for a Global Society ―International Reading Association, 2007

Teachers’ Choices (Intermediate) ―International Reading Association, 2007

Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People ―National Council for Social Studies, Children’s Book Council, 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

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

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


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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.