The latest book illustrated by an Iowa artist features a unique war-time Christmas story. The book chronicles what’s been called the “Christmas Truce” where soldiers from Germany and Britain stopped their fighting on the front lines during World War One to celebrate the holiday together.
“It’s an amazing story. It’s a true story,” says artist Gary Kelley of Cedar Falls. They just decided, spontaneously, to stop fighting on Christmas and have a party with each other.”
Kelley pitched the idea for the book to his publisher, Creative Editions. “They do books that are hard to categorize. They’re not for little kids, but they are for all ages,” Kelley says. “…The publisher has a pretty good following in Europe and it’s a story that pretty much covers both continents.”
According to Kelley, the story hadn’t been presented in this particular format before and he felt it was just a great human-interest story that deserved to be told again.
Kelley, a University of Northern Iowa grad, worked with writer J.Patrick Lewis to create the book.
“I bounced sort of a rough draft off of him,” Kelley says. “…We went back and forth three or four times and tweaked it together. They’re his words, but I had a fair amount of input, which is unusual.”
Kelley began with pencil drawings to lay out the illustrations and then moved ahead with the final illustrations which he says will look kind of like pastel paintings on paper. “It was different from all my other books,” Kelley says, “…more like a graphic novel.”
The approach led Kelley to double the number illustrations he would normally do for a book, to about 40 for this book. The book title is “And the Soldiers Sang.” It is scheduled for release in the fall of next year.