Unspoken: A Story from the Underground Railroad by Henry Cole

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ImageAfter taking the cows out to pasture, a young girl returns home to her family’s farm where she sees Confederate soldiers passing on horseback. When the girl enters the barn to feed the chickens, she realizes someone is hiding in the stack of corn stalks. The girl runs back to her house but does not tell her family what she has discovered. Pushing aside her fear and uncertainty, the girl sneaks food to the fugitive. What readers can see that the girl cannot is that different members of her family are doing the same thing. When the Confederate soldiers come looking for a runaway slave, the girl’s family protects the slave and sends the soldiers away. In the end, the runaway is gone but has left a gift behind for the girl in gratitude.

Amazingly, this entire story is told without the use of words. Henry Cole has beautifully and creatively illustrated the story of a courageous young girl with a wordless picture book. Using only charcoal pencils and paper, Cole has created detailed illustrations that transport readers back in time to the Civil War era. Wordlessly, Cole is able to set the time, place, and mood. This “silent” writing reflects the silence the girl and her family must keep to protect an innocent person. Cole’s story is both powerful and poignant and prompts readers to use their imagination.

Reviewed by Elisheva Gralnik

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