Published by Scholastic Press
Summary: 11-year-old Mary Lambert lives in Chilmark, a community on Martha’s Vineyard, where, in 1805, many of the residents are deaf. Mary and her father are deaf; her mother is hearing, as was her brother George, who died recently in an accident that Mary feels she caused. Their community is somewhat uneasily intertwined with the Wampanoag and black freedmen, and Mary is aware of the racism expressed by some of the people closest to her. Everyone in Mary’s life communicates through a sign language that has evolved on the island making the community distinctive enough to draw the attention of scientists. One of them, Andrew Noble, arrives from Boston to stay with the local minister and study the population in hopes of better understanding the cause of deafness. When Mary accidentally discovers a letter to Andrew asking him for a live specimen, she doesn’t realize that she is soon to become that specimen, kidnapped and taken to Boston for further study. Mary awakens to the fact that most of the deaf population outside of Martha’s Vineyard are treated as less than fully human, and she becomes desperate to find a way to communicate and get help. The story concludes with healing for Mary and her family, and with a vision of a brighter future for the deaf community. Includes six pages of notes about the history of Martha’s Vineyard, deaf education, sign language, and the Wampanoag. 288 pages; grades 4-8.
Pros: This is honestly a masterpiece of historical fiction that tackles so many different topics and doesn’t shy away from difficult topics. Mary’s mother and best friend both have racist beliefs that don’t change by the end of the story, yet also have qualities that Mary loves. This would make an excellent book club selection.
Cons: I found the beginning a little slow going as there was so much to introduce.