written by Patricia Polacco
Pink and Say, created by Ms. Polacco in picture book format, propelled a group of us recently into a discussion about picture books for older readers. “I think adults would like this book,” one person said. “There’s so many discussion starters here,” said another. “Every person in America should be required to read this book, no matter how old they are. Especially now, with the media starting their focus on racial divisions in the presidential campaign,” said a third.
Indeed, there are many topics adults want to discuss within the pages of Pink and Say. So let’s call this an “illustrated book” rather than a picture book and maybe some of those adult readers will get over their prejudices about “baby books.”
The story of two teen boys who meet when they are separated from their troops during the Civil War, Pink and Say is a true story in that it was handed down to Patricia Polacco through generations of family members, the first of whom, Sheldon Russell Curtis, was nicknamed Say. He fought for the Ohio Twenty-Fourth, although he was only supposed to be standard bearer at age fifteen. When Say is badly injured, Pink finds him in the woods. Lost from his own regiment, the Forty-Eighth Colored, Pink decides to take Say home to his mother, Sweet Moe Moe Bay, to be nursed back to health. The two boys become good friends, learning more about life in another person’s skin, one of them dreading going back to the war, the other eager to fight so he can make things right. The book ends at Andersonville, a notoriously awful prison camp run by the Confederate Army. Ultimately, though, the book is about hope and friendship and doing what is right. It is a powerful statement about life and love. The author’s illustrations are equally strong, supporting the text with understanding and illumination.
It’s a fine book … one that should be read by people of all ages.
— Vicki Palmquist, children’s literature enthusiast
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