Unspoken : A Story from the Underground Railroad
by Cole, Henry

In this wordless picture book, a young Southern farm girl discovers a runaway slave hiding behind the corn crib in the barn and decides to help him.

HENRY COLE was a celebrated science teacher for many years before turning his talents to children's books. He has worked on nearly one hundred and fifty books for children, including Unspoken, Big Bug, A Nest for Celeste, Jack's Garden, and On Meadowview Street. Henry loves being outside, where he can sketch and write. His favorite sound is the first robin song of the spring. You can visit him online at www.henrycole.net

From the title on, silence and secrets create stirring drama in this wordless picture book about a child who helps a runaway slave escape. The full-page charcoal-and-pencil drawings in sepia tones show the girl busy with her chores on her family's farm. Then she glimpses someone watching her in the barn. She barely sees the runaway; the pictures show just an eye. She never speaks with the hidden figure, but she leaves food, wrapped in cloth, even as terrifying, armed slave hunters on horseback show her family a poster: "Wanted. Escaped. Reward." Then the fugitive disappears in the night, but the girl finds a doll made from the star-patterned cloth that covered the food she had brought. At the story's end, the girl lies in bed watching the stars in the night sky. A long afterword adds context to the historical setting, and children will be moved to return to the images many times and fill in their own words. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

A farm child and a fugitive make an unspoken connection in this suspenseful, wordless Civil War episode. Drawn in monochrome pencil on rough-textured paper, the broad, full-page and full-spread rural scenes give the encounter a shadowy, atmospheric setting. Going about her chores after watching a detachment of mounted soldiers beneath a Confederate flag trot by, the child is startled and fearful to realize that someone is hiding in a pile of cornstalks in the storehouse. Rather than mention this to the (seemingly) oblivious adults in her extended family or, later, to the hunters who come by with a reward poster, she courageously ventures out by herself, carrying small gifts of food. Never seen beyond a glimpse of an eye amid the leaves, the fugitive at last departs as silently as he (or she) came-leaving a corn doll in return for the girl's kindness. In a ruminative afterword, Cole reflects on his Virginia family's own connections to the war and, though silent about the signal quilt he hangs on the farmyard's fence in the illustrations, explains the significance of the Big Dipper visible in the nighttime sky. Moving and emotionally charged, the book is capped with a powerful close-up of the child's face on the rear cover with the legend "What would you do if you had the chance to help a person find freedom?" (Picture book. 7-10) Copyright Kirkus 2012 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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