We all know that February is Black History Month. As such, I wanted to showcase a book that relays some important, but perhaps not widely known, black history. We have a multiple books in our library that would have sufficed, so it was difficult to pick one. By recommendation of The Boy, Pink and Say by Patricia Polacco was selected. (I have future plans to feature some of the other options I was considering.)
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You probably recognize the author's name. She's written tons of fabulous children's books and illustrated several more (as you can see here). If you're familiar with her work, you may associate Patricia Polacco stories with having a Russian or Ukrainian influence (due to her heritage). In fact, the first several books of hers that we owned employed such language and images. Consequently, I recognized those elements of her work as her trademark. Then we came upon Pink and Say.
Though it doesn't show elements of Patricia Polacco's Russian/Ukrainian ancestry, Pink and Say is still is a reflection of her personal family history. I'll let the author explain it in her own words from the book: "I know this story to be true because Sheldon Russell Curtis told his daughter, Rosa. Rosa Curtis Stowell told it to her daughter, Estella. Estella Stowell Barber, in turn, told it to her son, William. He then told me, his daughter, Patricia." (You should know that Sheldon Curtis died in 1924 and Patricia Polacco was born in 1944. It's a possibility her father, William, heard this story as a boy directly from the source. At the very least, his mother, Estella, likely heard it recounted from Sheldon Curtis.)
So, you see, this is part of the author's family history, but it is also a real piece of American and black history.
Pink and Say tells of two young Union soldiers who find each other in Georgia after being separated from their respective outfits. Actually, I should write that Pinkus (Pink) Aylee comes upon a badly wounded Sheldon (Say) Curtis lying in a pasture. Pink takes a semi-conscious Say to his mother, Moe Moe Bay. There she tends to Say and helps him heal while taking great joy in the return of her precious Pinkus.
During his recovery in Moe Moe Bay's shack, Say enjoys comfort and safety he's been missing since fighting began. He doesn't want leave. However, Pink lets him know they must go as soon as Say is able. Their presence puts Moe Moe Bay at risk, as marauders are a constant threat.
I'm not going to provide all the details of the story, but I will relay that they are not happy. Rather, they are realistic. The marauders find Moe Moe Bay. Pink and Say are captured by Confederate troops and sent to Andersonville. If you know about Andersonville, you know the gravity of that sentence. I have visited that horrible place. It's quite sobering.
Obviously, Say survives his time at Andersonville and goes on to die an old man in 1924. As a black, Union soldier, the same cannot be said for Pinkus. As I said, it's not a happy ending, but it's the real one.
Besides telling a story, Pink and Say relates a lot of history from its time period. Marauders, jumping the broom, how slaves were given surnames, fighting conditions for black soldiers, and, of course, Andersonville are all topics mentioned. Any study or discussion of slavery or the Civil War would be enhanced by this work.
Though the story of Pinkus Aylee is a true part of black history, it's not a widely known one. However, that doesn't mean it's any less important. We can learn a lot from Pinkus. If you read the book, you'll find he was brave, and he had conviction. He saw value in his fellow man, even one who was much different than him. He risked his life for someone else. "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends" (John15:13).
This February l'm happy to help promote the life of Pinkus Aylee, and I'm glad Patricia Polacco has secured his place in history by writing this book.
For another book I've already reviewed that would be a good read for Black History Month, check out Favorite Book Friday: The Kid Who Changed the World.
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