Use Patricia Polacco Books in the Classroom: Pink and Say

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Plot of Pink and Say (5 out of 5)

Patricia Polacco books are always well-written and can often be used to teach skills in different subject areas such as language arts and social studies. Here’s a summary of one of her most touching books:

Two fifteen-year-old Union soldiers form a bond of friendship on the battlefield. Sheldon Curtis, a white soldier also known as Say, lies badly wounded when Pinkus, an African American soldier also known as Pink, rescues him. Pink carries Say to his home where Say is cared for by Pink’s mother, Moe Moe Bay. While Say is recovering, Pink reads aloud to him and Moe Moe Bay from the Bible. Say confesses that he can’t read, but he is proud that he once touched the hand of Abraham Lincoln. In a very sad section of the book, mauraders kill Moe Moe Bay, and Pink and Say return to their units. Shortly after, the Confederate Army captures them, and they hang Pink. Before he is hung, Pink says, “Let me touch the hand that touched Mr. Lincoln, Say, just one last time.” Touching the hand of Lincoln is symbolic for hope for a better future and a country without slavery.

Patricia Polacco books often teach day-to-day lessons as well.


Here are some activities to go with Pink and Say, one of the popular Patricia Polacco books_:_

  1. Students can pretend to be either Pink or Say and write a journal entry about one of the days that they spend together in Moe Moe Bay’s house. They can also write about why they are fighting in the war for the Union army to bring in a social studies connection.
  2. You can discuss the themes of hope, friendship, and war in Pink and Say with your students. Ask them to find examples of these themes throughout the story. Make a list on chart paper of the events that match each theme. Ask students which theme they think stands out the most in the book. What is the message that Patricia Polacco is trying to tell by writing this touching story?
  3. This book can serve as a catalyst for a research project for older students who are studying the Civil War in history or social studies classes. Students can research in small groups, pairs, or individually about the causes of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln, the Emancipation Proclamation, leaders in the Union army or Confederate army, or young soldiers. After researching, students can write a regular report, create a display, or even a power point presentation to share with classmates.
  4. Use this one of the Patricia Polacco books to study character traits. Students can make a list of character traits for Pink, Say, and Moe Moe Bay. For example, Pink is brave. Once students write down that he is brave, then they need to prove it with events from the story. They should write down a few examples from Pink and Say by Patricia Polacco that prove his bravery.
  5. Students can write a review of Pink and Say.

Pink and Say is one of those books that will stick with you and your students long after you shut its cover. You can use it to teach social studies and language arts objectives.

This post is part of the series: Patricia Polacco Books and Activities

Patricia Polacco is a much-loved author of picture books for children. She draws and illustrates many stories about her own life growing up as a child with a rotten redheaded older brother and about her wonderful teachers and role models. This series discusses favorite Patricia Polacco books.

  1. In the Elementary Classroom: Unit Study on Patricia Polacco
  2. Reading Lesson Plans with Patricia Polacco Books: Thank You, Mr. Falker
  3. Teach Your Class About WWII Using The Butterfly by Patricia Polacco
  4. Patricia Polacco Books and Activities: Pink and Say
  5. Reading Lesson Plans: My Rotten Redheaded Older Brother by Patricia Polacco