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Unspoken: A Story From the Underground Railroad Hardcover – November 1, 2012
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"Cole’s (A Nest for Celeste) beautifully detailed pencil drawings on cream-colored paper deftly visualize a family’s ruggedly simple lifestyle on a Civil War–era homestead, while facing stark, ethical choices. Beginning with an illustration of a star-patterned quilt hanging over a fence (such quilts, Cole writes in his author’s note, signified a “safe house” for runaway slaves), the wordless story follows a girl who becomes aware of someone hiding in the barn. In one scene, she glances nervously over her shoulder at an unexpected noise; the next shows a closeup of cornhusks, a frightened eye peering through; the girl dashes from the barn in terror in a third illustration. After pondering her discovery, she stealthily delivers food wrapped in a checkered napkin on multiple occasions. Household adults are none the wiser, and following a close call with a pair of bounty hunters, the girl returns to the barn and discovers a cornhusk doll, left behind as thanks. Cole conjures significant tension and emotional heft (his silent storytelling calls to mind Brian Selznick’s recent work) in this powerful tale of quiet camaraderie and courage." - Publishers Weekly starred review
“[D]esigned to present youngsters with a moral choice…[T]he author, a former teacher, clearly intended ‘Unspoken’ to be a challenging book, its somber sepia tone drawings establish a mood of foreboding.” - New York Times Book Review
Top Customer Reviews
As our story begins, a young farm girl bringing the cow home from the pasture watches five men pass on horseback. The first one is carrying a Confederate flag, so we understand that this story takes place in the South during the Civil War era. The girl goes to feed the chickens, and then her mother sends her to fetch the eggs from a small barn. As she does so, she is frightened to realize that someone is hiding in a big stack of corn stalks laid in one corner of the barn, perhaps to dry for feed.
The girl runs back to the house, but even before she goes inside, she starts to calm down and think about what this means. She does not say anything to her family, but after dinner she goes out to the barn with some food for the fugitive. Perhaps my favorite part about this story is a spread showing different hands holding different food items on the same checked cloth--showing that each member of the family separately slips out to the barn to feed the runaway slave hiding there.
The next day two men come to the farm looking for a runaway slave, but the girl's family sends them away. That night the runaway is gone, but she has left a simple gift behind for the girl, something she has made from the checked napkin and the corn husks.
A good picture book is like a poem. It is hard to tell a story well in just a few words or just a few pictures, but Cole succeeds beautifully.Read more ›
I have found something new every time I read it to a new class. The pain, fear, struggle, and ultimately the love and kindness of the little girl and the runaway slave are palpable. This is a great discussion starter on slavery in America, Abolitionist, the Underground Railroad, compassion, and courage for 3rd-8th grade students. I'm surprised and disappointed that this book did not win the Caldecott Medal or get recognized as an Honor Book, but so very glad that I read it and have been able to share it with students and teachers.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I use this book to teach inference to my fourth grade class. The illustrations are beautiful,Published 3 months ago by Judy
I met the author and won a copy of this book. I gave it to a teacher because she kept saying WOW!! WOW!!! WOW!!! and is sharing it with all of her classes. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Mary L. McDade
The pictures, although nicely drawn, do not make it clear that there is a runaway slave hiding. You see soldiers on horseback on the farm. Read morePublished 6 months ago by NichBeRich
Outstanding book. Has quickly become one of my favorites! So many teaching opportunities!Published 6 months ago by H
a work of art. a visual poem. so glad I own it. so glad i took the plunge and bought it. It is a beautiful book. Love owning it.Published 7 months ago by Amazon Customer
This is our favorite wordless book! The story is powerful!Published 12 months ago by Hollie Struxness
Excellent story! This was for one of our granddaughters who is an artist. She excels in pencil work. It was much appreciated by her.Published 16 months ago by Dorothy Harding
I use this book as part of an Underground Railroad study for my 6th graders. They really enjoy it as a whole class "read aloud". Read morePublished 16 months ago by K. Morgan