Pink and Say: The Hand that Shook the Hand of Abraham Lincoln

Tomorrow is Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, a fact I remembered while looking for a picture book to use with older students.

cover Pink and SayI remembered Pink and Say  by Patricia Polacco.

This true story about the author’s great-great-grandfather, Say Curtis, describes his meeting with Pinkus Aylee, a black soldier, during the Civil War. They are both Union soldiers trying to avoid capture by Southern troops.

One of the most powerful moments in the book is when Say recounts his meeting Abraham Lincoln. Sitting with Pink’s mother, Moe Moe Bay, and listening to Pink read from the Bible, Say speaks:

“I wish I could read,” I said without thinking.

When Pink saw I was ashamed, he took my hand.

“I’ll teach you, Say, some one day I’ll teach you.”

I could feel my face flushing up, then I spoke up.

“I done something important,”  I announced.

"Now, you can say you touched the hand that shook the hand of Abraham Lincoln.”

the hand that shook the hand of Abraham Lincoln

“Of course you have, child, of course you have,” his mother said.

“I touched Mr. Lincoln’s hand. It were near Washington. We were quartered there, just before Bull Run.  The President himself were shaking everyone’s hands, and I just put my hand right out.”

“And he took it?” Pink asked.

“Yep, he took it,” I answered.

“Now, there’s a sign, ain’t it ?” he said smiling broadly.

“Touch my hand, Pink. Now, you can say you touched the hand that shook the hand of Abraham Lincoln.”

“Next best thing next to touchin’ him,” Moe Moe Bay said wonderingly.

Polacco’s story of Pink’s humanity and compassion is conveyed in both word and illustration. She proves that best stories are true.

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