Show Me a Sign

Scholastic. Mar. 2020. 288p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781338255812.
Gr 3-7–Free-spirited, inquisitive 11-year-old Mary Lambert loves to spin stories. She’s also deaf, as are her father and many others on Martha’s Vineyard. No one knows why the island has such a high population of deaf people. Mary’s friend Ezra Brewer, the old seaman, says that deafness is in the blood and was brought to the island when the original Lamberts settled there more than 100 years ago, in 1692. Signing is the only language Mary has ever known, and her life is full. But when tragedy strikes her family, she keeps a deep secret from her parents; she knows it is all her fault. Her relationship with her mother becomes strained, and everyone is on edge. Learning that a scientist is coming to the island to study why there are so many deaf residents sparks Mary’s curiosity. He charms her mother and many others on the island, but Mary soon discovers his intentions are not honest while falling victim to his deceitful plan. She is taken from her home and becomes his “live specimen” for scientific study. Her struggle to regain control of her life in a world where the deaf are considered “moronic” and her determination to find a way home will take all of her strength, cunning, and courage. LeZotte crafts a moving tale of 1805 Martha’s Vineyard that highlights issues still relevant more than 200 years later, including racism, ableism, and prejudice. Colonialism of the Wampanoag land as well as a perception of savagery among the Indigenous people, the preconceptions of the deaf, and a family’s attempt at overcoming tragedy while remaining whole are the underlying themes in the novel. But these themes add nuance to the expertly crafted story of Mary, her response to her situations, her courage, and her hope that she will reunite with the community she loves.
VERDICT Exceptionally written, fast paced, and full of topics that will inspire deep discussion. A valuable addition to secondary elementary or middle school collections.
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