Unspoken: A Story from the Underground Railroad

by Henry Cole

Black pencil illustrations on buff-colored pages detail a wordless story set during... read more

Black pencil illustrations on buff-colored pages detail a wordless story set during the Civil War. A quilt with the North Star pattern hung on a rail fence comprises the opening page spread, which is followed by a scene showing Confederate soldiers riding across a field bordering the fence. A young white girl on the farm is doing chores. Inside the barn she sees a single eye peering out from a shock of corn. Later, she sets a biscuit from the dinner table on the barn floor; other offerings follow. Two men in search of a runaway slave leave with the extra horse they brought along still rider-less. That night, the girl returns once more to the barn and finds a gift: a cornstalk doll, wearing a dress made from the napkin in which she’d delivered food. In an author’s note Cole writes about growing up in Loudoun County, Virginia, on the edge of the Confederacy, where the Civil War was family history still regularly talked about. He also notes that escaped slaves sought out safe houses in the area. This imagined story is rooted in history if not in specific facts and offers much for children to discover and discuss, not the least of which is the meaning of the title, so appropriate to a story in which silence abounds and in which actions rather than words speak volumes. (Ages 7–11)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2013

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