Set Me Free

Scholastic. Sept. 2021. 288p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781338742497.
Gr 5 Up–In this sequel to Show Me a Sign (2020), the action finds Deaf protagonist Mary Lambert three years after the events of the previous volume. She is now 14 and much closer to adulthood in her early 19th-century world. Raised in a real community on Martha’s Vineyard where historically a significant portion of the population was Deaf and using a precursor of ASL, Mary, who is white, has therefore lived a life somewhat protected from assumptions of the era about Deaf people. Yet she is aware that when she leaves her hometown, the world has a very different perception of her based on their inability to speak her language. Mary returns to the Boston area to act as a tutor to a young girl who is also unable to communicate and is believed to be Deaf. She finds her student to be, in reality, a prisoner. Ultimately, Mary determines that she must rescue the girl. Getting them both to safety requires help from others, but also her own courage and self-advocacy. Full of unique detail about the experience of interacting with the world as a Deaf person (the author is also Deaf), this historical novel will serve as a helpful window book for non-Deaf readers, but also a much-needed mirror book for those who are Deaf. Historical endnotes make clear how much research went into doing justice to the setting and the characters outside of the author’s lived experience, including those characters who are members of the Wampanoag Nation.
VERDICT An excellent addition to any children’s or tween historical fiction collection, especially where Show Me a Sign has been popular.

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