Brief Description: 15 yo gravely wounded white Union soldier is rescued on the battlefield by African American boy soldier, about the same age. The wounded boy is nursed back to health by the other boy’s mother, but then they are captured by Confederates. Based on the author’s family history.
Date Range: 1865
Original Publication: 1994
Suitable for Grades: 1-4th
Target Audience: Picture Book
This is a tender story of a friendship born on a Civil War battlefield in Georgia, between two young Union soldiers, one white and one African American, separated from their companies. “Pink,” the African American boy, happens upon the gravely wounded “Say,” who had been left for dead. Pink carries Say to his mother’s nearby home, to be nursed back to health. The boys’ presence puts Moe Moe and the other young siblings in grave danger lest she is caught harboring enemy soldiers in the center of Confederate territory. Poignant musings on bravery follow, as Pink and Say have differing attitudes on trying to find their lost battalions and returning to the war.
Polacco’s watercolor paintings fill in many details, literally showing, not telling. In the first pages, just two watercolor spreads illustrate the circumstances of the boys’ differing family lives – Say’s neat Ohio farmhouse contrasting with Pink’s disheveled shack, both mothers distraught at their boys’ departures. The gradual revelation of the burned out shell of the “big house” hulking over Moe Moe’s shack echoes the relationship between her and its former residents, her owners.
The sweet interlude at Moe Moe’s must come to an end, however. A warning: there may be tears! The story is based on Polacco’s great-great-grandfather’s experience in the war. His chance encounter with Pinkus Aylee saved his life.