Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Unspoken: A Story From the Underground Railroad

Unspoken: A Story From the Underground Railroad

Henry Cole
Wordless Picture Book
For ages 7 and up
Scholastic Press, 2012   ISBN: 978-0545399975

Though the Civil War is affecting the lives of thousands of Americans, a little girl living on a farm has a quiet life tending the cow and the chickens, and helping her family members with the chores. Then one day some Confederate soldiers ride by. She watches as they ride away, their flag flying. Their presence means very little to the child and she goes back to work. Then, in the storehouse, she feels that something is different. She looks over at the corn stalks that are stacked against the wall and an eye looks out at her.

Full of fear, the girl runs back to the house and she even drops the basket that she is carrying, spilling vegetables all over the porch floor. Though the girl is afraid, she chooses not to tell anyone about the eye that she saw, about the person who is hiding in the store house. After supper that night the girl sneaks out of the house and she leaves some food on the floor in the store house. For several days she continues to take food out to the person, and she tells no one about what she is doing.

Then one day two men arrive at the farm. From her hiding place under the stairs, the girl watches as the two men ask the grownups if they have seen a runaway slave. The little girl hopes that the men will leave without searching the farm.

With beautiful charcoal and pencil black and white drawings, Henry Cole gives readers a wordless story about the Underground Railroad that is powerful and memorable. People of all ages will be moved by this story, which shows to great effect that a quiet compassion can be an act of bravery.

At the back of the book an author’s note explains how Henry Cole came to create this extraordinary book.