They say a picture is worth a thousand words. The first time I picked up a copy of "Unspoken: A Story From the Underground Railroad" and started looking through it, I was immediately transported back in time.
"Unspoken" is what is known as a wordless book, containing only illustrations to carry the reader through the story. This particular genre of books relies on the reader to take an active role, and this is a wonderful book for parents and children or teachers and their students to share.
The detailed pencil sketches by Henry Cole draw the reader into a search for details on every page, eagerly waiting for the next one to appear. This is an excellent teaching tool for expanding on the history of the Underground Railroad. It also can be used to practice retelling a story, thus helping students practice their comprehension skills.
At the end of the book, Cole explains, "I wanted to tell - or show - the courage of everyday people who were brave in quiet ways. I wanted to make this a wordless book. The two main characters in the story are both brave, have a strong bond and communicate with great depth. Yet, both are silent. They speak without words. Because I made only the pictures, I'm hoping you will write the words and make this story your own - filling in all that has been unspoken."
There are many examples of great "wordless" picture books. If you like this genre, I would suggest others, such as "A Ball for Daisy" by Chris Raschka, "Flotsam" by David Weisner and "Good Dog Carl" by Alexandra Day.
Sheila Dembowski is the media specialist for Riverside Elementary School and a local author. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or http://collaborationisthekey.wordpress.com.