In the Piney Woods

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Nothing lasts forever – in families or in the piney woods

Long before Ella was born, her grandpa, “strong and straight and singing,” built a little house at the edge of the piney woods. Once this house was roomy. Now it’s packed tight with Ella, and her family, and Grandpa, old now – his body “bent like the branches of the low pines.” Ella loves the secrets that Grandpa shows her in the woods: how the sticky cones of the dwarf pitch pines stay...
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Nothing lasts forever – in families or in the piney woods

Long before Ella was born, her grandpa, “strong and straight and singing,” built a little house at the edge of the piney woods. Once this house was roomy. Now it’s packed tight with Ella, and her family, and Grandpa, old now – his body “bent like the branches of the low pines.” Ella loves the secrets that Grandpa shows her in the woods: how the sticky cones of the dwarf pitch pines stay locked up tight, “waiting,” as Grandpa tells her, for the heat from a fire that will allow them to open and release their seeds. “Everything has its time,” says Grandpa.

This spirited picture book, with evocative watercolors that capture the depth of feeling between Ella and Grandpa, tells a powerful story that is as much a celebration of life as it is an honest, reassuring book about aging and death.

Grandpa and his granddaughter spend his last summer visiting and enjoying the pine woods near their house.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Working in the same vein as Barbara Santucci's and Lloyd Bloom's Anna's Corn (Children's Forecasts, Oct. 7), Schotter (Nothing Ever Happens on 90th Street) brings a gentle hand to the big questions of death and rebirth, while Root's (Birdie's Lighthouse) intimate watercolors convey a joy tempered by grief, and grief healed with love. Ella lives with her extended family in the house her grandfather built when he was "strong and straight and singing." He's old now; he speaks in short phrases and can't walk far. Still, he and Ella explore the nearby pine barrens together. He shows her dwarf pitch pine cones that need to be seared by fire before they'll open to release their seeds. "Waiting," Grandpa tells her. "Everything has its time." Sure enough, a fire comes during the last months of Grandpa's life, and Ella has a chance to show him an opened cone just before he dies; she then plants one of its seeds by his grave. That spring, Ella's sister, Sada, has a new baby, to whom Ella can pass on Grandpa's teachings. Root shows the family overflowing with affection. On one page, they sit around the table eating blueberry muffins, stained and smeared; in another spread, when Grandpa's legs "aren't working well," the others carry him on their shoulders, a joyous procession into the piney woods. Ages 5-up. (Mar.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature
Schotter has drawn on experiences of her own to construct this tale of death and rebirth in the sandy Pine Barrens. An extended family lives in a wooden house built long ago by Grandpa, who loves to walk in the pine woods with his granddaughter Ella, teller of the story. He shows her how the cones of the dwarf pitch pines are tightly closed, waiting for a fire to release their seeds and clear the forest floor. As Grandpa grows feebler, older sister Sada awaits the birth of her baby. When a forest fire finally rages, Ella helps to fight it in place of her grandfather, who lives just long enough to see a pinecone opened by the heat and flames. The baby is born and a tiny seedling pine pushes its way out of the ground on Grandpa's grave. The text emphasizes family closeness and resourcefulness, grief at the loss of a member, and the healing power of nature, both in the birth of a baby and in the renewal of the pine forest. Kimberly Root's lovely illustrations, full of blues and browns, evoke the landscape of twisted trees, sand, and water. Each character is lovingly portrayed and distinctively dressed; young readers will enjoy deciphering the sisters' T-shirts with their regional messages like "Clam Box" or "Captain John's Charter." This is a very satisfying tale and a fresh addition to the literature of grandparent-grandchild relationships and the inevitable sadness of their endings. 2003, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Talcroft
School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 3-This quiet family story stars a little girl, her grandfather, and the piney woods they love to explore, where they pretend to be trees. But always there are references to the old man's age: "When I was small, Grandpa helped me walk. Now I help him walk." The use of the present tense gives immediacy to the narrative and focuses on the pair's time together. Even when Grandpa is "too tired" to go into the woods, they pretend play on the porch and share cups of tea at the kitchen table. The piney woods burn down, but new growth promises a rebirth just as Grandpa's death is followed by her nephew's birth. The symbolism of the tree is an apt one and describes the strong family member whose roots go deep and whose protection is always sought. Root's watercolor illustrations portray a coastal scene, with scrub pine, sea grass, and sand in abundance. Blues predominate, becoming deeper for storm and night scenes and lighter for daytime. As in Eve Bunting's I Have an Olive Tree (HarperCollins, 1999) and Trish Cooke's The Grandad Tree (Candlewick, 2000), the tree is used to great effect, but throughout most of this book, the grandfather is more of a living presence than a memory to be cherished.-Jane Marino, Scarsdale Public Library, NY Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Ella lives at the edge of a piney woods in a house her grandfather built when he was strong and straight singing. Now her grandfather is old and weak, but the family is eagerly awaiting the arrival of Ella’s sister’s child. Grandpa takes Ella into the piney woods and shows her the pitch pinecones that will not release their seeds without being heated by fire. When lightning causes a fire in the piney woods, Ella helps battle it, then brings Grandpa one of the sprung-open cones. A few months later, Grandpa dies. The next spring Ella sees baby pitch pines sprouting in the old forest, and holds her new nephew in her arms. Schotter (Missing Rabbit, 2002, etc.) based this on her own struggles with grief and joy; unfortunately, the message carries more weight than the characters, who don’t come alive in a way that would make the story more accessible. Grandpa speaks in short, toddler-like sentences (due to his age) that don’t convey much emotion, and Ella, whose age is never given, often sounds far too adult. "[Grandpa] looks so terribly tired. Well, I think, long life has tired him out." Root’s (Birds of Killingworth, 2002, etc.) watercolors, though active and emotive, fail to capture the sense of the Carolina woods. Would the family really be allowed to bury Grandpa in the woods? And would firefighters really allow a young girl to help them? Some older children, facing loss, may find this book useful; younger readers won’t quite understand. (Picture book. 6-8)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780374336233
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 2/5/2003
  • Edition description: 1ST
  • Pages: 32
  • Age range: 5 - 9 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Roni Schotter’s picture books include Nothing Ever Happens on 90th Street. She lives in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York.

Kimberly Bulcken Root has illustrated many popular picture books. She lives in Quarryville, Pennsylvania.
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 24, 2003


    Kimberly Bulcken Root's sun washed paintings aptly illustrate this poignant and powerful story of the very special relationship between a young girl and her grandfather. Our tale opens long before Ella, the narrator, was born. She tells of when her grandfather was young, strong enough to build a small house by the piney woods and the sea. Now, her grandfather is old. When she was little he helped her walk; now she helps him walk because together they love to roam the pine barrens. It is during these times that they play together, pretending to be trees. It is also when he teaches her about seeds and pine cones, repeating the immortal phrase, "Everything has its time." More than a view of the love shared by Ella and her grandfather, In The Piney Woods is also a reflection of the joys of family life as the house is happily shared by Mama, Papa, Big Sister Sada, and her husband Sam. Sada is expecting a baby in the summer, and the world will be different. Ella and young readers (5 years and up) learn that nothing stays the same.

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