Unspoken: A Story From the Underground Railroad

Overview


A young girl's courage is tested in this haunting, wordless story.

When a farm girl discovers a runaway slave hiding in the barn, she is at once startled and frightened.

But the stranger's fearful eyes weigh upon her conscience,
and she ...

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Overview


A young girl's courage is tested in this haunting, wordless story.

When a farm girl discovers a runaway slave hiding in the barn, she is at once startled and frightened.

But the stranger's fearful eyes weigh upon her conscience,
and she must make a difficult choice.
Will she have the courage to help him?

Unspoken gifts of humanity unite the girl and the runaway as they each face a journey:
one following the North Star,
the other following her heart.

Henry Cole's unusual and original rendering of the Underground Railroad speaks directly to our deepest sense of compassion.

A New York Times Best Illustrated Children's Book of 2012

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Editorial Reviews

The Washington Post - Kristi Elle Jemtegaard
Henry Cole's meticulously detailed drawings created from hundreds and hundreds of individual pencil strokes evoke the rough texture of hand-hewn logs, hand-spun cloth and hand-tilled soil, while the sepia-tone backdrops recall 19th-century daguerreotypes. How the girl's simple gifts are returned to her, wordlessly transformed by gratitude, is the gentle resolution to this quietly dramatic tale about the Underground Railroad.
Publishers Weekly
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. Ages 3–7. (Nov.)
From the Publisher

"Gorgeously rendered in soft, dark pencils, this wordless book is reminiscent of the naturalistic pencil artistry of Maurice Sendak and Brian Selznick, but unique in its accurate re-creation of a Civil War-era farm in northwestern Virginia. On the dedication page, readers see a star quilt on a split rail fence, symbolizing the North Star. Confederate soldiers arrive on horseback and a farmer’s daughter’s lingering gaze betrays her intuition of their visit. She goes about her duties of feeding the animals and gathering harvested vegetables. In the recently harvested cornstalks propped up in the corner of the barn, she hears a rustling and sees an eye. Superb visual storytelling shows her hands time and time again offering a piece of corn bread, apple pie, a leg of chicken, each time on a small checkered kerchief, to the young, hidden runaway. The soldiers return with a poster: “Wanted! Escaped! Reward!” These words call out in the otherwise wordless book, and readers feel their power. Parallels between the fugitive and the farmer’s daughter establish themselves visually when the latter gazes from behind a door, terrified at this threat. An author’s note details the Civil War stories Cole heard as a young boy and underscores his intention of showing not the division, anger, and violence of the Civil War, but “the courage of everyday people who were brave in quiet ways.” - Sara Lissa Paulson, American Sign Language and English Lower School PS 347, New York City, Starred review

"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

Children's Literature - Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
Using no text at all, Cole tells the story of the bravery of a young girl who dares to help a runaway slave. At the beginning of the book, she watches a line of Confederate soldiers ride by across the double page. Sent to the barn to fetch some food, she discovers someone hiding amid the corn stalks. She runs away in fright at first. But deep in thought at dinner, she decides to bring the fugitive food. We see her wrap up pie and cake for him in a napkin. Men arrive with rifles and a notice of a reward for an escaped slave. An eye watches from the barn as they ride away. That night when she checks in the barn, she finds only a cornhusk doll, dressed in the napkin. She takes it to bed, content. Cole's naturalistic black graphite drawings with 4B pencils make effective use of the large single and double-pages framed in a thin blue line. The scenes are emotionally charged from the peering eye through the actions of family and soldiers, but mainly following the anxious behavior of the brave heroine. The author adds informative background notes to this piece of history. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
Gr 3–8—Gorgeously rendered in soft, dark pencils, this wordless book is reminiscent of the naturalistic pencil artistry of Maurice Sendak and Brian Selznick, but unique in its accurate re-creation of a Civil War-era farm in northwestern Virginia. On the dedication page, readers see a star quilt on a split rail fence, symbolizing the North Star. Confederate soldiers arrive on horseback and a farmer's daughter's lingering gaze betrays her intuition of their visit. She goes about her duties of feeding the animals and gathering harvested vegetables. In the recently harvested cornstalks propped up in the corner of the barn, she hears a rustling and sees an eye. Superb visual storytelling shows her hands time and time again offering a piece of corn bread, apple pie, a leg of chicken, each time on a small checkered kerchief, to the young, hidden runaway. The soldiers return with a poster: "Wanted! Escaped! Reward!" These words call out in the otherwise wordless book, and readers feel their power. Parallels between the fugitive and the farmer's daughter establish themselves visually when the latter gazes from behind a door, terrified at this threat. An author's note details the Civil War stories Cole heard as a young boy and underscores his intention of showing not the division, anger, and violence of the Civil War, but "the courage of everyday people who were brave in quiet ways."—Sara Lissa Paulson, American Sign Language and English Lower School PS 347, New York City
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780545399975
  • Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 11/1/2012
  • Series: Unspoken Series
  • Pages: 40
  • Sales rank: 136,569
  • Age range: 4 - 8 Years
  • Product dimensions: 9.70 (w) x 10.90 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author


HENRY COLE was born on a dairy farm near Purcellville, Virginia, and was an adored elementary-school science teacher for 16 years. He has since illustrated over 80 popular picture books, including the multimillion-selling Moose series and other bestsellers. Mr. Cole has always loved art and science, which has made him a keen observer of details in nature. He now lives in both Florida and Virginia.
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