Quick Summary: Pink and Say shows the friendship between Pinkus Aylee and Sheldon (Say) Curtis during the Civil War. Pink rescues an injured Say on the battlefield and takes him to stay with his grandmother, Moe Moe Bay until he is back to health. After marauders murder Moe Moe Bay, the pair become more determined to return to war. As they are returning to war, they are captured and taken to a confederate prison camp where Pink is killed. Through it all, lessons can be learned about the horrors of war and the virtues of friendship and courage. Patricia Polacco does an excellent job of covering the tough stuff in an elegant and appropriate way for students. Patricia Polacco’s summary of the book is MUCH better than my extremely basic one, if you would like more details!
I do not even know where to begin with this book, because it could be utilized in so many ways. Every time I’ve read it, you can hear a pin drop in my room, even with my noisiest of classes! The writing is so beautiful, and the story is so heart-wrenching that you will have the kids in the palm of your hand when you read this aloud. Pink and Say is well suited for 5th grade, because it is a mature book and it incorporates The Civil War. Since, grade 5 covers American History in most states, this book just works.
From the Social Studies TEKS: (4) History. The student understands political, economic, and social changes that occurred in the United States during the 19th century. The student is expected to:
(E) identify the causes of the Civil War, including sectionalism, states’ rights, and slavery, and the effects of the Civil War, including Reconstruction and the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments to the U.S. Constitution
However, I don’t feel that you have to wait until your Civil War unit to use this. Most 5th graders have plenty of background knowledge on this time period already. So, here are some ideas for utilizing it:
SCHEMA: You can utilize this book to discuss how we bring our background knowledge into our comprehension when reading. Draw on student’s knowledge of The Civil War. Even if their knowledge is basic, it is crucial for comprehending the story. You could easily create some type of T-Chart and collect student’s background knowledge. Then, as you are reading, write about how that information is incorporated into the book.
METACOGNITION: So this is a given, and I pretty much shouldn’t put this on here, but any time you are modeling/doing think-alouds, you are showing students how to reflect on their own thinking. There are PLENTY of places in this book where you could stop to share your thoughts and reactions.
SUMMARIZING/STORY ELEMENTS: Summarizing is a tough skill, so I always start by teaching fiction summaries. I like to spend time writing a few summaries as a class, and then later having students write their own. I have used Pink and Say to write a summary as a class.
I teach summary by having students record the elements of the story such as setting, characters, conflict and resolution. Then, we work from there to write our summary. This story works well for elements.
THEME: Theme is an abstract concept, making it tough, however this book has great themes such as friendship and courage. I would not teach theme early in the year with this book, because I like using it for schema, metacognition and summary, at first. However, when it is time to teach theme later on, I would definitely pull this book back out and discuss!
This TEK is well covered in this book, because the “historical event” has a major effect on the theme of the story:
5.3 (C) Students analyze, make inferences and draw conclusions about theme and genre in different cultural, historical, and contemporary contexts and provide evidence from the text to support their understanding. Students are expected to explain the effect of a historical event or movement on the theme of a work of literature
In the end, there are many objectives you can achieve with this book from an academic stance, but most importantly, this book speaks to the heart and can be used to discuss more important concepts in life. I hope you check it out!
Other Figure 19 TEKS that could be met with this book: (C) monitor and adjust comprehension (e.g., using background knowledge, creating sensory images, re- reading a portion aloud, generating questions); (D) make inferences about text and use textual evidence to support understanding; (E) summarize and paraphrase texts in ways that maintain meaning and logical order within a text and across texts