Reviews for Unspoken : A Story from the Underground Railroad
Booklist Reviews 2012 December #1
From the title on, silence and secrets create stirring drama in this wordless picture book about a child who helps a runaway slave escape. The full-page charcoal-and-pencil drawings in sepia tones show the girl busy with her chores on her family's farm. Then she glimpses someone watching her in the barn. She barely sees the runaway; the pictures show just an eye. She never speaks with the hidden figure, but she leaves food, wrapped in cloth, even as terrifying, armed slave hunters on horseback show her family a poster: "Wanted. Escaped. Reward." Then the fugitive disappears in the night, but the girl finds a doll made from the star-patterned cloth that covered the food she had brought. At the story's end, the girl lies in bed watching the stars in the night sky. A long afterword adds context to the historical setting, and children will be moved to return to the images many times and fill in their own words. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.
Horn Book Guide Reviews 2013 Spring
In this wordless book, a young girl discovers a fugitive hiding amongst the cut cornstalks stored in the root cellar. What Cole shows so superbly through his accomplished yet unpretentious pencil art is the keeping of secrets. The entire family appears to know what's going on, but the extent of each character's involvement is never made explicit; it is conveyed by body language alone.
Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2012 #6
This wordless picture book opens with a calm scene: a quilt hangs over a rural split-rail fence. A young girl enters the scene on the next double-page spread, leading a cow and watching a small group of Confederate infantry ride by. The girl continues with her daily chores, including gathering potatoes from the root cellar, where, behind the cut cornstalks stored there, she glimpses an eye, signaling that someone is hiding amongst them. Time passes; surreptitiously, the girl leaves food for the fugitive. The family gathers for a meal; bounty hunters searching for a runaway slave appear -- and then leave. Frightened, the girl runs to check on the escapee and discovers that he or she has gone -- leaving her a handmade cornhusk doll. What Cole shows so superbly through his accomplished yet unpretentious pencil art -- the ideal medium for the book, as it looks as if it's of the era as well as portraying the era -- is the keeping of secrets. The entire family appears to know what's going on, but the extent of each character's involvement is never made explicit; it is conveyed by body language alone, particularly in the exaggerated movements of those who believe they are being watched, their averted eyes when facing the bounty hunters, and the various hands that bring food to the fugitive slave. The back jacket, with an arresting close-up of the young heroine, personalizes the experience by asking young readers: "What would you do if you had the chance to help a person find freedom?" betty carter Copyright 2012 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.
Kirkus Reviews 2012 November #1
A farm child and a fugitive make an unspoken connection in this suspenseful, wordless Civil War episode. Drawn in monochrome pencil on rough-textured paper, the broad, full-page and full-spread rural scenes give the encounter a shadowy, atmospheric setting. Going about her chores after watching a detachment of mounted soldiers beneath a Confederate flag trot by, the child is startled and fearful to realize that someone is hiding in a pile of cornstalks in the storehouse. Rather than mention this to the (seemingly) oblivious adults in her extended family or, later, to the hunters who come by with a reward poster, she courageously ventures out by herself, carrying small gifts of food. Never seen beyond a glimpse of an eye amid the leaves, the fugitive at last departs as silently as he (or she) came--leaving a corn doll in return for the girl's kindness. In a ruminative afterword, Cole reflects on his Virginia family's own connections to the war and, though silent about the signal quilt he hangs on the farmyard's fence in the illustrations, explains the significance of the Big Dipper visible in the nighttime sky. Moving and emotionally charged, the book is capped with a powerful close-up of the child's face on the rear cover with the legend "What would you do if you had the chance to help a person find freedom?" (Picture book. 7-10) Copyright Kirkus 2012 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.
Publishers Weekly Reviews 2012 October #4
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.) [Page ]. Copyright 2012 PWxyz LLC
School Library Journal Reviews 2012 November
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 [Page 70]. (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.