Cole, Henry. 2012. UNSPOKEN: A STORY FROM THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD. Ill. by Henry Cole. New York: Scholastic. 9780545399975 [Suggested Grade Levels 4 – 8]
Cole shares a story of courage and kindness during the Civil War. On a small farm in Virginia, a young girl helping with chores watches Confederate soldiers pass by. As she retrieves food for that night’s dinner, she discovers a runaway slave hiding in the corn crib. At first, the young girl feels fear, which later develops into concern and compassion. Despite knowing there is a reward for this escaped slave, she continues to sneak food until the unseen slave leaves to continue with his/her journey, presumably northward.
Cole provides an author’s note at the conclusion of the story, sharing a few of his family’s experiences in the Civil War as well as his motivation for creating this wordless picture book.
The soft pencil illustrations tell a more detailed story without words than with words. Readers of different ages will comprehend a different story, depending on their knowledge of history.
This picture book offers readers guided writing practice, as readers can describe the action in each scene and include dialogue in their stories. The story can also be used as a springboard for a short or extensive activity researching the Underground Railroad.
Other books for children about courage and kindness:
Woodson, Jacqueline. EACH KINDNESS. ISBN 9780399246524
Polacco, Patricia. PINK AND SAY. ISBN 9780399226717
Other wordless picture books for upper elementary and middle school readers:
Tan, Shaun. THE ARRIVAL. ISBN 9780439895293
Wiesner, David. FREE FALL. ISBN 9780688109905
By Jennifer E. M. Richey