Pictures often speak louder than words, and Henry Cole’s delicate pencil drawings need no text to tell a suspenseful story of courage and daring. A young girl on a Southern farm is accustomed to seeing Confederate soldiers ride past her farm. Their presence does not interrupt her chores, but a suspicious sound in the harvested corn does. A frightened eye peering out from among the husks can only mean an escaped slave. Compassion overcomes fear, and the girl risks punishment to help the fugitive who concretely manifests his gratitude before leaving.
Each of Cole’s images contains many elements of the culture, architecture, fashion and lifestyle of the era of the Civil War. The detailed illustrations immerse the “reader” in his heroine’s world: the warmth of the farmyard and the kitchen hearth; the cold night air with the Big Dipper pointing north; the rancor of the soldiers searching for the escapee; the peace emanating from a little girl’s face as she offers food to one in need. Young children will sense the emotions of each character as they themselves tell this story. Adults will find this book a wonderful launching pad for discussions about topics such as slavery and justice.
Jennifer Minicus is a mother and teacher living in Ridgewood, NJ.