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The Blue and the Gray Hardcover – November, 1996

4.8 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Luminous oil paintings carry the day for this thoughtfully conceived but unevenly executed story. Bunting's tale of two realities-houses under construction and the Civil War battlefield on which the new community lies-revolves around two boys, neighbors and friends, one black and one white. The action alternates between the present day and 1862 as one of the boys' fathers describes the long-ago battle, peeling back the layers of time to reveal the history that lies beneath the boys' feet. Bunting's (Smoky Night) verse shows glimmers of the lyricism of which she is capable ("The barrels of their muskets/ hard and black/ gave back/ the dazzle of the sun"), but it is marred by occasionally awkward phrasing ("The little puffs of smoke/ burst like gray dust/ around the barrel of each rifle gun,/ floated behind them as they'd run/ man after man"). The interracial theme seems a bit contrived, at times even self-congratulatory ("We'll be a monument of sorts," the father says, "a part of what they fought for/ long ago"). Meanwhile, Bittinger's (The Matzah That Papa Brought Home) artwork shines, capturing every nuance, whether picturing sweeping scenes of battle or the easy camaraderie between the two young friends. His evocation of the brutality and drama of war is all the more touching, standing out as it does in sharp relief against the sunny, tranquil contemporary scenes. Ages 5-7.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal

Grade 1-5-The families of two friends, one black and one white, are building new houses on a spot overlooking a field where a Civil War battle took place. The white boy's father describes the battle to the two children, and these imagined scenes are shown, juxtaposed with the everyday calm of the present. Surprised that there is no historical marker, the boys vow that they'll remember, and the father says: "We'll be a monument of sorts...a part of what they fought for long ago." Bunting uses a first-person narrative, writing in verse that is often evocative and lyrical. When the narrator finds an old bullet, he throws it "...high/across the field of bones./How silently it falls/into the tufts of grass/and flowers." The author does not always maintain an authentic child's voice, however. Bittinger's striking oil paintings are technically accomplished and suit the dramatic nature of the text. He's especially good with the contrast between the serene present, with its clear, transparent light, and the dark chaos of the fighting long ago. This well-intentioned story is not quite up to Bunting's best, but there is much potential for classroom use, and the book will make an interesting match with Patricia Polacco's Pink and Say (Philomel, 1994), right down to a painting of black hands and white hands reaching toward one another.
Lauralyn Persson, Wilmette Public Library, IL
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 6 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 620L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 1996 pages
  • Publisher: Scholastic; First Edition edition (November 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0590601970
  • ISBN-13: 978-0590601979
  • Product Dimensions: 8.8 x 11.3 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #531,541 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Eve Bunting has written more than 200 books for children, many of which can be found in libraries around the world. Her other Clarion titles for very young readers include My Big Boy Bed, which was also illustrated by Maggie Smith, and Little Bear's Little Boat, illustrated by Nancy Carpenter. She lives in Pasadena, California.

Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on October 9, 1998
Format: Hardcover
I have just finished reading the book through for the second time. A co-worker gave it to me to look at from her local library, and I am using this visit to Amazon to order it for my children. What a *beautifully* written book! I am a professional songwriter, and as such I have a special appreciation for the flow of language and story, the movement from the sensory information of the present to the jarring contrast of the past. Your children will understand the Civil War in a very human and very tragic way - the way it should be understood. They will more fully understand why the angels wept....
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Format: Hardcover
The Blue and the Gray gives a very modern look at the Civil War, through the eyes of two young boys -- one Caucasian, one African-American -- who are friends and neighbors where a house is being built for one of the families. On this very spot where bloody battles were faught over 100 years ago, right there in Northern Virginia. The father of one of the boys explains in simple terms what the fighting was for, tells them how the soldiers might have experienced things at that time. Bunting, as always, is a genius with her choice of words, but just as impressive are the beautiful oil paintings for the book created by Ned Bittinger. Having had the privilege of having Mr. Bittinger speak and do presentations of his art work in the Library System where I work as the Youth Services Librarian, I have an even stronger appreciation now for the value of this wonderful picture book. A great way to introduce children to the concepts of friends fighting friends and brothers disagreeing with each other to fight a Civil War where many opinions and ideals struggled to be free. (Be sure to look for the hidden pictures Bittinger clever crafts into the "shadows" of some of these pages -- particularly the general on his horse as the boys are sledding down a hill!) One of the best picture books ever, particularly in this subject area.
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Format: Turtleback
This is one of the finest picture books I have ever come across. It involves a father telling his young son (and the son's friend) about the Civil War -- of which several battles took place on the land where the house is being built.
This book was in poetry form which would probably make it easy for even some of the youngest readers to read and enjoy. The pictures were some of the best that I have ever seen (as vivid as Chris Van Allsburg - THE POLAR EXPRESS, JUMANJI). The paintings of the Civil War battle scenes (which appear as almost in a dream-like state) were vivid enough and realistic enough to make any reader stop and take in the view for a considerable amount of time before going on to the next page. One of the remarkable things that quickly impressed me about this book was its stance on the subject and principles of war. One of the lines spoken by the father really puts the theme into an interesting perspective:
"...though every war is sad, and most are bad..."
Another very touching point in the book was when the young boy asks his father if the Civil War was as hard for the men fighting it as it was for him in Operation Desert Storm.
The topic of this book is a universal one. I think that as long as a child is old enough to walk and talk, then they are old enough to be taught at least a little about their nation's history Civil War - whether that history include a revolution or a civil war or slavery.
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