Palacco, P. (1994). Pink and say. New York, NY: Babushka Inc.
Summary: Pink and Say tells the story of a generational family tale of Sheldon Russell Curtis, or Say, and his friend Pinkus, or Pink. Sheldon was white solider in the Union Army who was left for dead following a battle.
Two days after being injured, he was was found in a field with an injured leg by Pink, an African American Union soldier. Pink dragged Say all the way to his mother’s house where he and his mother nursed him back to health.
While in Pink’s and his mothers’ house, Sheldon discovered he did not want to return to war and confided a dark secret. Meanwhile, Pink confirms that he and Say must return to war.
As Pink and Say are preparing to leave, marauders arrive at Pink’s house. His mother hides the boys under the floor while she steps outside to shoo them away. Under the floor, the boys here a single gun shot. When they reappear, they find Pink’s mother’s lifeless body.
After burying her, they set out to return to the Union Army, however, they were captured by the Confederate Army. Pink was hanged while Say was eventually released.
Impressions: I did not expect this book to as depressing as it was even though my undergraduate thesis dealt with slavery and race relations in the Antebellum South. I suppose I expected something more hopeful for children. With that said, I appreciate the honesty. It is always refreshing to read Historical Fiction with rich characters and when I find outliers, such as Pink and Say, it is even more intriguing.
What is incredibly fascinating about this story is that it is a family tale. This is not a story that Polacco pulled from her imagination; her family has passed it down for generations and it is now her story to pass down.
Finally, Polacco’s illustrations are beautiful. Each character is colored in a way that they come to life – such as their rosy cheeks or red knuckles and Polacco has a way of emphasizing the important part of the story within the illustrations, such as when Pink and Say let go one last time. In this illustration, the reader clearly sees the grasp Pink and Say have on one another while two men attempt to pull Say away.
Review: “Gr 2-5-This poignant picture book tells of an interracial friendship that develops during the Civil War. Sheldon, a young white soldier nicknamed Say, is left for dead in a pasture in Georgia and found by Pinkus, or Pink, an AfricanAmerican Union soldier who carries him to his mother’s home. Pink’s mother nurses the stranger back to health and comforts him with words of compassion. The brutality of the war comes to life as the woman is shot by marauders, and the two boys are captured by Confederate soldiers and sent to the infamous Andersonville prison. Say lives to tell his tale to his grandchildren but Pink is hanged shortly after imprisonment. The translation of this moving story is excellent and as faithful as possible without the colloquialisms that permeate the original. The sensitively rendered full-page illustrations work especially well with the text.”
Colmant-Donabedian, T. (1998, February). [Review of the book Pink and Say, by P. Polacco]. School Library Journal, 44(2), p. 132.
“Polacco relates a true incident from her family’s history in this powerful story set during the Civil War. Fifteen-year-old Sheldon “Say” Curtis has been wounded and left for dead by his fellow white Union soldiers. Pinkus “Pink” Aylee, a 15-year-old African American Union soldier, finds Say and carries him home to his mother, Moe Moe Bay. Pink and his mother nurse Say back to health, and the two boys forge a strong bond of friendship, even though Pink plans to return to his military unit. Before they can leave, marauders kill Moe Moe Bay. Pink and Say are captured soon after and taken to Andersonville prison, where Pink is hanged within hours of his arrival. Say survives to tell the story and pass it on through generations. Polacco’s artwork shows dramatic perspectives and faces full of emotion. As the friends are wrenched apart in prison, they are able to clasp hands for a moment as Pink says, “Let me touch the hand that touched Mr. Lincoln, Say, just one last time.” This picture book is a departure for Polacco in terms of content and audience, but the familial ties still remain.”
Johnson, N.J. & Giorgis, C. (2005, September). [Review of the book Pink and Say, by P. Polacco]. Booklinks, 15(1), p. 55.
Library Uses: The book is a realistic look at the grey area that certainly existed during a time that is often thought of as black and white. Pink and Say shows readers a stone that is often unturned.
One suggested activity would be to read this book to tweens and follow it with a guest speaker, such as a historian or a professor, who can verify some of the information in the book and give more historical information about the Civil War and the relationships between African Americans and white soldiers.