Unspoken: A Story from the Underground Railroad by Henry Cole

In our hyper-connected world of constant chatter, quiet is a difficult-to-access, precious commodity. Take a sweeping look around you, take a few minutes to turn everything off, and grab a copy of this spectacular, wordless book. That’s right – no words, beyond the author’s dedication (to a librarian!) at book’s beginning, and his illuminating note at book’s end. Yet in between, you’ll find a young heroine’s story that speaks volumes …

As a young girl goes about her daily chores on the family farm, she notices small details that make her look once, twice, and again. Her initial fear turns into courage by the light of her lantern, as she offers a hidden biscuit, then a slice of pie and a drumstick to an unseen visitor in the dark barn. Through a peephole under the stairs, she witnesses the angry soldiers who promise a reward to betray a human life, but her unspoken vigilance proves to be the best reward of all.

Unspoken, which pubbed just last week, has already been named one of New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Books of 2012. Even without that latest (well-deserved) honor, if creator Henry Cole‘s name or his illustrations seem familiar to you, that’s probably because one of his dozens of books happens to be And Tango Makes Three, which he illustrated for authors Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell. For all the wrong reasons, Cole has practically been an annual household name especially during Banned Books Week: Sweet Tango led the “Top ten most frequently challenged books of 2010,” was at the top of the list for five years in a row (with a respite at #2 in 2009), but then was conspicuously absent in the latest 2011 list (oh, how fickle the naysayers!)!

Having experienced only too well that sort of censored silence beyond his control, Cole’s decision to create a silent book – and such a marvelous one at that! – surely resounds with a sense of sweet victory. In his “Author’s Note,” he shares highlights from his family’s long-ago history on their Virginia farm during the Civil War, and adds, “I wanted to tell – or show – the courage of everyday people who were brave in quiet ways.”

What did I say about speaking volumes?!!

Readers: Children

Published: 2012


Filed under ...Absolute Favorites, ..Children/Picture Books, .Fiction, African American, Nonethnic-specific

3 responses to “Unspoken: A Story from the Underground Railroad by Henry Cole

  1. A brilliant book, absorbing for my 9 year old, and me. Thanks for alerting me to Henry Cole’s brush with the censorship lobby.
    We review it here too

    • I admit I haven’t seen this year’s Caldecott winner in total (the book cover’s been rather ubiquitous).

      That said, Unspoken is so memorable on so many levels — as history, as art, as witnessing, as food for thought, and most of all as a heart-thumping exciting story!! I can’t think of too many other titles for which such a description applies … it really is a stunning success.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts. And visiting BookDragon. Hope you find other good reads here.

  2. Pingback: Unspoken by Henry Cole review / Tidy Books Blog - Perfect Home for Kids Books

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