A copper dream. An Unspoken history. People torn apart from their families and all they had ever known in Africa for lives of  ‘struggle and sacrifice‘ in America.

Ms Simmons’s class learns the story. They wonder at what the peoples might have thought ‘they’d find when they got there’ or even if they ‘wanted to escape‘. However, the ‘copper dream in iron chains‘ meant ‘working hard for long hours- For free’. For these enslaved people were ‘picking cotton and goring sugar‘ and ‘planting corn/- threshing rice/- curing tobacco/- harvesting coffee’. Then there was ‘cooking/ And cleaning/ And building /- For Free’

Ms Simmons’ class’s reactions are shadowed in charcoal line drawings, juxtaposed against the rich painterly pictures of the history that is shared, painfully. Furthermore, Dale Coulter’s sculptures are developed from original African works. Then again, Kwame Alexander’s  poetic narrative is insistent, so that we realise the loss, suffering, agony and unfairness.

Ms Simmons’ class says what readers might think, that though ‘it’s just too painful‘ , the truth must be spoken ‘even when it’s hard’. Thereafter, Bookwagon insists that Unspoken must be spoken, known of, shared and discussed. What’s more, with this format, with an award winning writer and diligent, inspired artist offering such an outstanding book.

Then again, reading the authors and illustrator’s notes at the conclusion, we realise anew, how important it is to know, face up to and speak this history. Bookwagon recommends Unspoken to every reader.

Add to Wishlist
Add to Wishlist



Kwame Alexander and Dare Coulter

(Andersen Press)

‘How do you tell a story that starts in Africa and ends in horror?’ Catherine Johnson has told such stories, including Journey Back to FreedomHowever now, following his award-winning The Undefeated, Kwame Alexander picks up the narrative.
Thereafter, we begin with the ‘evil plans and big guns‘ waiting in the night, to steal lives ‘and sell them to America‘. However people cannot be sold. Instead these people were ‘shackled‘, crammed and dying, uncertain of what lay ahead. It seems they held ‘copper dreams‘ while ‘working hard/ for long hours,/from can see/ to can’t.‘ Then again, the enslaved worked with ‘no reading allowed/ no reading aloud’ for free. They had no choice. Choice had been stolen from them.
Unspoken is a stirring poetic narrative of the history of slavery. Alongside magnificent words are glorious paintings, interspersed with charcoal drawings of contemporary reactions. Therefore, ‘Why weren’t they paid?/ That’s not fair’. Then again, ‘How do you tell that story/ and not want to weep/ for the world’? Then again, Dale Coulter has created  sculptures from his research that faithfully revise historical works.
Somehow, because this is a picture book, the eloquence and depth of history is more meaningful. It leaves us stunned to see families torn apart from what they knew, realise their fears and the hardships and hostility of their new lives. What’s more, the classroom setting with Ms Simmons, lends the book a greater relevance. It means that the class’s reaction is fresh and real. Therefore, ‘We’re still here‘. Or, ‘You can’t change the past, but you can do better in the future’. 
Bookwagon recommends Unspoken highly for reading aloud, discussing, knowing and owning. It is a magnificent title.


There are no reviews yet.

Be the first to review “Unspoken”

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may also like…