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Pink and Say Hardcover – September 15, 1994

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 4 Up-This picture book set during the Civil War is a departure for Polacco in terms of content and audience. It is certainly the deepest and most serious book she has done. Sheldon Curtis, 15, a white boy, lies badly wounded in a field in Georgia when Pinkus Aylee, an African American Union soldier about Sheldon's age, finds him and carries him home to his mother, Moe Moe Bay. Sheldon, known as Say, is nursed back to health in her nurturing care. But then she is killed by marauders, and the boys return to their units. They are then are captured and taken to Andersonville, where Pink is hanged within hours of their capture. One of the most touching moments is when Pink reads aloud from the Bible to Moe Moe and Say. Say tells them that he can't read, but then he offers something he's very proud of: he once shook Abraham Lincoln's hand. This is a central image in the story, and is what ties the boys together for a final time, as Pink cries, "'Let me touch the hand that touched Mr. Lincoln, Say, just one last time.'" The picture of their clasped hands, with the hands of the soldiers wrenching them apart, is exceptionally moving. Polacco's artwork, in fact, has never been better. She uses dramatic perspectives, dynamic compositions, and faces full of emotion to carry her powerful tale. History comes to life in this remarkable book.
Lauralyn Persson, Wilmette Public Library, IL
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Ages 5-9. Hands and gestures have always been important in Polacco's work. Here they are at the center of a picture book based on a true incident in the author's own family history. It's a story of interracial friendship during the Civil War between two 15-year-old Union soldiers. Say, who is white and poor, tells how he is rescued by Pinkus (Pink), who carries the wounded Say back to the Georgia home where Pink's black family were slaves. In a kind of idyllic interlude, Pink and his mother nurse Say back to health, and Pink teaches his friend to read; but before they can leave, marauders kill Pink's mother and drag the boys to Andersonville prison. Pink is hanged, but Say survives to tell the story and pass it on across generations. The figure of Pink's mother borders on the sentimental, but the boys' relationship is beautifully drawn. Throughout the story there are heartbreaking images of people torn from a loving embrace. Pictures on the title and copyright pages show the parallel partings as each boy leaves his family to go to war. At the end, when the friends are wrenched apart in prison, the widening space between their outstretched hands expresses all the sorrow of the war. Then, in a powerful double-page spread, they are able to clasp hands for a moment, and their union is like a rope. Say once shook Lincoln's hand, just as Say held Pink's hand, and Say tells his children, who tell theirs, that they have touched the hand that touched the hand . . . Hazel Rochman

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 6 - 9 years
  • Grade Level: 1 - 4
  • Lexile Measure: 590L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 48 pages
  • Publisher: Philomel Books; First edition. edition (September 15, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0399226710
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399226717
  • Product Dimensions: 8.8 x 0.4 x 11.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (98 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #41,945 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Born Patricia Ann Barber in Lansing, Michigan, to parents of Russian and Ukrainian descent on one side and Irish on the other, Patricia Polacco grew up in both California and Michigan. Her school year was spent in Oakland, California, and summers in her beloved Michigan. She describes her family members as marvelous storytellers. "My fondest memories are of sitting around a stove or open fire, eating apples and popping corn while listening to the old ones tell glorious stories about their homeland and the past. We are tenacious traditionalists and sentimentalists.... With each retelling our stories gain a little more Umph!"Studying in the United States and Australia, Patricia Polacco has earned an M.F.A. and a Ph. D. in art history, specializing in Russian and Greek painting, and iconographic history. She is a museum consultant on the restoration of icons. As a participant in many citizen exchange programs for writers and illustrators, Patricia Polacco has traveled extensively in Russia as well as other former Soviet republics. She continues to support programs that encourage Russo-American friendships and understanding. She is also deeply involved in inner-city projects here in the U.S. that promote the peaceful resolution of conflict and encourage art and literacy programs.The mother of a grown son and a daughter, Patricia Polacco currently resides in Michigan, where she has a glorious old farm that was built during the time of Lincoln.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

39 of 40 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 4, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Pink and Say is appropriate for all readers, children and adults. I read it to my third graders and cry every time. It is a true story of a beautiful interracial friendship which is considered to be too complex and harshly realistic for young readers by some people. However, it is much more appropriate than what many children view on television and, in this day and age, I feel the emotions it evokes are extremely valuable as is the civil war/slavery history lesson it contains. Congratulations to Patricia Polacco for telling the story like it is. It's a shameful history but it happened and kids of all ages need to understand just how aweful it was. I say it's about time we stop sweeping these shameful parts of our history events under the rug. Thank you Ms. Polacco for giving it to us honestly. Every teacher should have this book on his/her shelf.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Patricia E. Boyd on September 7, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I read this book to my children when they were young. Now I enjoy reading it alone. Patricia Polacco tells a very personal Civil War story that will grab grade-school-age children. Two young men from opposite sides of the war meet, and we see how in their shared youth, they realize war is something dreamed up by the "big guys" who don't suffer on the battlefield. I can never read the end of the book out loud without crying. I didn't give the book a full five stars, because I believe one of the side characters is a bit stereotyped. But it's a minor flaw that the rest of the book rises above. Highly recommended for ages 6 to 106. A great, easy book to supplement grade school history class discussions of the Civil War.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By M. Wright on May 26, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I'm a new elementary librarian and have only just learned about "Pink and Say" while teaching students about Historical Fiction. I read this story to a group of 5th graders and completly broke down crying while reading it. It is touching on so many levels - the relationship between Pink and Say, between Say and Moe Moe Bay, and between Pink and Moe Moe Bay. We also have a realistic glimpse of what it was like during that time - about it being illegal to teach slaves to read, about how the smells are the same in each house and about how humans require love and affection. I'm sure that my 5th graders felt this book on a deeper level since I was crying while reading it. I think they understood the horror of the time and not one child trivilized the story (which is easy to do if you are in 5th grade!). I loved the story and hope that I don't break down again with the other 5th graders I have to read it to!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Arielle on May 23, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I first read "Pink and Say" many years ago, but each time I read it, tears come to my eyes. Patricia Polacco tells the wonderful story of two young boys that have different skin colors but are very much alike. The story of their friendship is very touching and makes you think about life in a new light. I think it's a great book for young readers since it explains the struggle of African Americans and the Civil War without sounding like a text book. The wonderful illustrations really add to the true story. This is a wonderfulbook.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful By nancyOinfo on August 1, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Pink and Say, is a poignant and disturbing tale of two young Union soldiers, one black, called Pink, and one white, known as Say, whose life paths cross on a civil war battlefield. Pink finds Say in deep pain with a broken leg, and though wounded himself, somehow carries the boy home to his mother, Moe Moe Bay, who cares for Say as her own. While healing, the two boys become true friends, sharing memories and secrets: that Pink can read and hopes never to be "owned" again, and that Say, though a deserter, once shook Lincoln's hand at Bull Run. Neither had ever had such a close (amicable) encounter with someone of the `other' race, and for Pink especially this required great compassion. But their arrival had jeopardized dear Moe Moe's safety, and she is murdered by marauders as the boys lay hidden in the root cellar below. After laying her to rest, the grief stricken son and his demoralized companion soon fall into Confederate hands and are sent to Andersonville, the notorious prison camp. Say eventually recovers to tell the tale, but Pink never had a chance -- he was hung only hours after arriving.

The tale is told in Polacco's version of casual boy talk for that era, region and race, at times, perhaps stereotypical, as may be the portrayal of Say's "sweet Moe Moe". Simple emotive colored pencil and gouache sketches characteristic of Polacco's hand take over the pages in somber blues, grays and browns with spots of pattern and colorful detail, their immediacy providing more than half the tale. The story was handed down through several generations on Say's side to author Polacco, who dedicates her rendition to Pinkus Aylee, "because he has no living descendants to do this for him." A parting plea, "when you read this...
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Susan A. Meagher on April 15, 1998
Format: Hardcover
Patricia Polacco's "Pink and Say", an exquisitely written, true account of the civil war friendship between a poor black soldier and the white one he rescues, beautifully illustrates love in its purest form. Through her masterful storytelling, Polacco teaches us the evil of prejudice in a way all hearts can truly understand. Her characters are richly developed and her message is conveyed without preaching. Polacco's use of authentic language adds flavor and realism to this charming story, enjoyed by children and adults alike. "Pink and Say" is an ABSOLUTE MUST READ!!!
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