Pink and Say

About the Book

Pink and Say is a children's book written and illustrated by Patricia Polacco. It was first published in 1994 by Philomel Books. The story is about two boy soldiers who meet each other in the battlefield during the American Civil War. One of the protagonists, Sheldon Russell Curtis ("Say"), is a white soldier who was injured while trying to escape battle. He is saved by a former slave named Pinkus Aylee ("Pink"), who is now a soldier of the 48th Regiment Infantry U.S. Colored Troops. Pink carries him back to his Georgia home where he and his family were slaves.

While the frightened soldier is nursed back to health under the care of Pink’s mother, Moe Moe Bay, he begins to understand why his newfound friend is so adamant on returning to the war; to fight against the sickness that is slavery.

Read a sample by scrolling down.

When Sheldon Russell Curtis told this story to his daughter, Rosa, she kept every word in her heart and was to retell it many times over in her long lifetime. Sheldon had been injured in a fierce battle and was left for dead in a muddy, blood-soaked pasture somewhere in Georgia.

He was a mere lad of fifteen. He lay there for two days, by his reckoning, only to slip into unconsciousness and fever. He was rescued from this field by another lad who had also been separated from his company. I will tell it in his own words as nearly as I can:

I watched the sun edge toward the center of the sky above me. I was hurt real bad. For almost a year I'd been in this man's war. The war between the states. Being just a lad, I was wishin' I was home. My leg burned and was angry from the lead ball that was lodged in it just above my knee. I felt sleepy and everything would go black.

Then I'd wake up again. I wanted to go back to our farm in Ohio and sometimes, when I'd fall into one of them strange sleeps, I'd be there with my Ma, tastin' baking powder biscuits fresh out of her wood stove. Then I heard a voice. For a moment I thought I was fever-dreamin', but then I felt strong hands touch my brow, splash water in my face.

"Bein' here, boy, means you gotta be dead," the voice said as he gave me a drink from his kit. "Where you hit? 'Cause if it's a belly hit, I gotta leave you here," he said. I had never seen a man like him so close before. His skin was the color of polished mahogany. He was flyin' Union colors like me. My age, maybe. His voice was soothin' and his help was good.

"Hit in the leg," I told him. "Not bad if it don't go green."

"Can you put weight on it?" he asked as he pulled me to my feet. "We gotta keep movin'. If we stay in one spot, marauders will find us. They're ridin' drag and lookin' for wounded."

Next thing I remember was collapsin' in a heap on the ground and rockin' with the pain in my leg. Everything started to go black. Then I remember him pullin' me up on his back. I heard him say, "L—d have mercy, child. You as bad off as I am. I'll tote ya. I can't rightly leave you here." I remember being pulled and carried, and stumblin’.

I remember hard branches snappin' back in my face and mouths full of dirt as we hit the ground to keep from being seen. I remember sloggin' through streams, haulin' up small bluffs and belly-crawlin' through dry fields. I remember these things in half-sleeplike, but I do remember being carried for a powerful long way.

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