Let's not speak of this book ever again.                     

*Author/illustrator Henry Cole is a whiz with a pencil 
*His intentions were good in trying to tell a positive story about the travesty that was slavery during the Civil War era, but Cole even admits that he expects adults to fill in the weighty concepts for him
*Only one of us was an elementary school teacher (and it wasn't me), so maybe my opinions below should be discounted since he has dealt with countless more young ones than I have     

*Not only did my friend and I find the topic entirely too serious for the intended audience, but we also agreed that the absence of words only makes it worse since the primary emotion conveyed is fear (Cole would probably argue that caring and courage are what shine through)  
*Since the runaway is never seen leaving the barn, we can't even be sure there was a happy ending
*Given the details offered by Cole in the author's note, it sounds like he's placing this story within five minutes of Leesburg, Virginia, which is right near the northern border of the state -- yet he talks about the difficulty of making it north of the state line (granted, Virginia stretches a few miles to the north from Leesburg, but there is a river crossing to Maryland on the eastern edge of town)

Look -- I'm not so stubborn as to say that all picture books should be warm and fuzzy.  If anything, I want to give the benefit of the doubt to authors who tackle more difficult subjects.  The way I see it, my son and daughter need to be exposed to some of the world's less beautiful sides while they are young so they will be prepared for life in the real world.  Still, the method for delivering these lessons is key, and no part of me thinks that a wordless picture book is the right avenue for broaching the awful racial injustice of 19th Century America.  The only way it could even work is if it was provided in tandem with an actual history text aimed at kids in, say, the fourth grade.  For any child younger than that, let this review serve as my 13th Amendment to the publication of this work.                    

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