Pros: Moving tribute to one who otherwise would be forgotten; illustrations.
Cons: Heart breaking.
Sheldon Curtis ("Say" to his friends and family) was fifteen at the end of the Civil War. He was a flag carrier turned soldier fighting for the Union. He was wounded in a battle, left fevered and dying when a boy his age with skin the color of polished mahogany happened to find him. Pinkus Aylee ("Pink"), also a Union soldier, cared for him and carried him to his family house where his mother, Moe Moe Bay, looked after both boys.
Taught to read by Master Aylee, Pink promised to teach Say when the fighting was done. (When Say asked why Pink had the Master's last name, he answered, "Boy, when you owned, you ain't got no name of your own.") As Moe Moe nurses Say back to health, Pink talks of little other than returning to the fight in order to abolish the sickness that is slavery. It isn't until Confederate marauders come and kill Moe Moe that Say understands the need to fight for the same reason.
As the two made their way back toward the fighting, they were picked up by Confederate soldiers and taken to Andersonville, where they were separated. The boys never saw each other again. Say was rescued months later, weighing just seventy-eight pounds. Records show that Pink had been hanged just hours after arriving at Andersonville.
Author and artist Patricia Polacco heard this story from her father, who heard it from his mother who heard it from her father, Sheldon Curtis.
This book serves as a written memory of Pinkus Aylee since there are no living descendants to do this for him.
Most of Polacco's picture books touch on difficult topics, and Pink and Say is no different. It's almost impossible to put an age recommendation on the book. The dark, earth-toned watercolor illustrations are captivating, but do portray the violence of the story. Two pictures in particular moved me to tears. In one, Pink is holding the dying body of his mother while Say holds her hand. The other is simply a picture of the two boys' hands grasping for each other while a third hand is ripping them apart.
Though the story is long, and there are plenty of words on each page, I think a confident early reader could read the story, but this isn't one you want your child to be reading alone. I think a story like Pink and Say should be read together, and serve as both a remembrance of a hero, and a way to broach such tender subjects with your child.
I can't end the review any differently than Patricia Polacco ended the book
Before you put this book down, say his name (Pinkus Aylee) out loud and vow to remember him always.