New books cover everything from slavery to the Civil War to WWII to MLK Jr.

To mark Black History Month, whose origins go back to February 1926, when Negro History Week was created, USA TODAY’s Bob Minzesheimer recommends four new illustrated books for young readers.

Unspoken: A Story From the Underground Railroad
By Henry Cole
Scholastic, 38 pp., ages 4 and up
* * * ½ out of four
With simple but elegant graphite drawings and not one word of dialogue, Henry Cole, a former elementary school teacher turned book illustrator, imagines a dramatic encounter during the Civil War. A young white girl on a Southern farm is sent on a chore. She notices someone hiding in the corn stalks. All she (and we, the readers) see is a fearful eye and a tiny glimpse of a black face. Which leaves the girl with the toughest of moral decisions, especially when two men who appear to be hunting runaway slaves show up. Cole’s drawings are as expressive as those of Brian Selznick (The Invention of Hugo Cabret). They’re interactive in the oldest sense, demanding the participation of readers.

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