The Day the Soldiers Stopped Fighting

ISBN-13: 978-0-545-13049-3
ISBN-10: 0-545-13049-2
Scholastic Press
October 2009

  • A 2010 Notable Book for a Global Society
  • An Editor’s Choice, Kirkus Reviews
  • An ALA Notable Book for Children
  • An ALA’s BBYA Best Book for Young Adults
  • A NCTE Orbis Pictus Recommended Title
  • Junior Literary Guild Selection
  • Booklist Best Books of 2009
  • SLJ Best Books of 2009
  • A BCCB Blue Ribbon Book

"What would happen, I wonder, if the Armies suddenly and simultaneously went on strike and said some other method must be found of settling the dispute?"
--Winston Churchill 

On July 29, 1914, the world's peace was shattered as the artillery of Austria-Hungary began shelling the troops of Serbia, the country to the south. What followed was like a row of dominoes falling over, as one European country after another rushed into war. Austria-Hungary's very powerful ally, Germany, joined it four days later to declare war on its neighbors and hurried troops across its borders into Belgium, Luxembourg, and Poland.

Against Austria and Germany stood France, Great Britain, Russia, and their many colonies and allies. The war widened in the months and years ahead until almost all of Europe was fighting. Even such faraway nations as Australia, Japan, and the United States were eventually drawn into the conflict. The soldiers who fought in this calamitous war called it the Great War. We know it today as the First World War. 

None of the soldiers who joined this war knew how deadly or senseless it would be. In a matter of days, six million of them would find themselves facing weapons of unimaginable destructive power. None of these young men realized that their leaders had lied to get them to fight in a war that did not have to have happened. Nor would they know that on December 25, 1914, they would openly defy their commanding officers and meet on the battlefield in what can only be descried as a Christmas miracle.

Kirkus (starred): Opening with a cogent recap of the state of Europe….that focuses on those moments when war might have been averted,… the author gracefully moves to the horrific conditions of battle…. Drawing on a wealth of primary sources, Murphy takes readers through to the exhausting endgame that spawned the next war, but also he leaves kids with the provocative thought that war need not be inevitable, that the truce "offered reassurance that a kinder, humane spirit could prevail…." Spectacular."

Booklist (starred): "Murphy's excellent telling of this unusual war story begins with an account of the events that led to WWI and follows the shift in the soldiers' mind-sets from the feverish rush to join before the war ended to the painful realization that no end was in sight. Printed in tones of sepia, the illustrations in this handsome… vividly portrays the context and events of the Christmas Truce."

School Library Journal (starred): World War I was notable for the incredible carnage, the complete senselessness of which was noted by both foot soldiers and...saavy statesmen.... Anyone who has ever felt confused by the connection between the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand and the conflagration that followed will be vastly enlightened by Murphy’s explanation, extended in a comparison drawn in the epilogue [between] Europe in 1914 and the United States just prior to attacking Iraq. Murphy's research is impeccable, and his use of primary sources is both seamless and effective. An excellent addition to ...libraries, this affecting book has a place in history curriculum as well.

Hornbook:"The historical background Murphy provides gives the truce emotional resonance; his subsequent, concise summary of the next four years of carnage is all the more sobering in contrast. Plentiful photographs and period illustrations convey the paradoxes well. r.s."
Jim Murphy has done it again. An amazing non-fiction book….
"This impressive book deserves a place in every …school library collection."