Books by Ned Bittinger

WHEN THE ROOT CHILDREN WAKE UP by Audrey Wood
CHILDREN'S
Released: April 1, 2001

Wood (A Cowboy Christmas, 2001, etc.) has retold—and refashioned—a century-old German tale into an engaging, romantic story of the seasons. Mother Earth awakes the Root Children and gathers bits of rainbow for them to make their colorful clothes. The children then wake the bugs and paint them in jewel colors. Aunt Spring welcomes the children in their bright and sweet-scented finery, and when she returns to her bed of ferns and lilies, Cousin Summer enters the scene. Soon, though, studious Uncle Fall arrives, and Mother Earth gathers the Root Children, who leave their brightly colored garments behind. The "masquerade" is over, and the Root Children are tucked in once again for the winter. Bittinger's (The Rocking Horse Christmas, 1997, etc.) rich oils show a multicultural group of Root Children, who gambol and play in fields, woods, and gardens in the sumptuous colors of forest and meadow. The original, published in German in 1906 by Sibylle von Olfers, was in verse; an early English translation is much more didactic and wordy. In both, the boy Root Children do the painting, the girl Root Children make the clothing, and they come to the earth to do their job, which is to become a profusion of plants, flowers, and grasses. Wood's tale changes the Root Children's activities from work to play—not a bad thing, but a definite difference. This can be enjoyed with no knowledge or reference to the earlier tale, of course, and is quite charming in word and image. A song, "Root Children Sleep," completes the package. (author's note) (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
THE BLUE AND THE GRAY by Eve Bunting
CHILDREN'S
Released: Nov. 1, 1996

Bunting adds to her series of picture books with serious themes (Smoky Night, 1994, etc.) with this account of an unnamed Civil War battle framed within a present-day story of two young boys, one black, one white, whose new homes are being constructed within view of an unmarked battlefield. As the two boys, fast friends, explore their new homesites, they learn about the tragic loss of life that happened there in that war of "us against us . . . the saddest kind of war there is." Bunting's text is mostly stated in the manner of a child's brief sentences, but sprinkled with rhyming words and typographically arranged like a poem in short lines that slow the reading to a somber pace. Bittinger's oils capture both the bucolic peace of the present-day countryside and the smoke and turmoil of battle, in one case as seen from exactly the same point of view in two consecutive spreads. Particularly effective is the ghostly presence of soldiers, cannon, horses, and wagons as faint silhouettes in some scenes of the two young friends. Offering only hints of the issues over which the war was fought, this is not a book to read without preparation, but it is a worthy complement to books such as Patricia Polacco's Pink and Say (1994) and Karen Ackerman's The Tin Heart (1990). (Picture book. 7-10)Read full book review >