(C) Ages 8-10, Book Reviews, Historical Fiction, Picture Books
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*Unspoken by Henry Cole

*Unspoken: A Story from the Underground Railroad, by Henry Cole.  Scholastic, 2012, 40 pages. 

Reading Level: Picture Book, Ages 8-10

Recommended for: ages 8-10 and up

unspokenBottom Line: Unspoken provides a wordless sequence of illustrations about a shelter for refugee slaves, inviting readers to fill in the story with their own imaginations.

Henry Cole grew up in a dairy farm in Loudon County, Virginia, midway between Manassas and Sharpsburg, Maryland (both the scene of famous battles).  He remembers sitting at the table with extended family during holidays, as elderly relatives recalled the stories of their elderly relatives, who were directly involved in the Civil War.  His personal connection gives an intimacy and immediacy to this wordless book, which the reader can share.  “Because I made only the pictures,” he writes in the preface, “I’m hoping you will write the words and make the story your own—filling in all that has been unspoken.”  Younger kids will need a little background—from the opening pages it’s clear there’s a war going on, but what is it about?  And when the young daughter of the household goes to gather eggs, who is that hiding among the cornstalks?  With just a little basic information, the kids can take it from there, filling in relationships, conversations and motivations from the visual clues.  Where is Father?  What do the grandparents know?  Why do the grownups look so unhappy?  Small’s textured charcoal drawings capture simple but telling details that create a spare, tense, ultimately hopeful story.

Also by this author: A Nest for Celeste

Cautions: None

Overall rating: 5

  • Worldview/moral value: 5
  • Artistic value: 4

Categories: Historical Fiction, Wordless, Picture books, Starred Review, American History, Character Values

reluctant readers, historical fiction, wordless, picture books, Civil War, kindness, trustworthiness, Unspoken, Henry Cole, Reading Level: picture book ages 8-10, recommended for: ages 8-10 and up, reformatted


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