Secret Signs: An Escape Through the Underground Railroad

Overview


In the mid-1800s, a boy and his mother help support themselves by making panoramic eggs of maple sugar. The boy, Luke, who is deaf, paints pictures that fit neatly inside the eggs. When a man bursts into their home and accuses them of hiding slaves, Luke's mother can honestly deny the charge. But she is that very day planning to meet their contact on the Underground Railroad to pass along information regarding the next "safe haven." Luke's mother is held at home, but the boy is courageous and resourceful in...
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Overview


In the mid-1800s, a boy and his mother help support themselves by making panoramic eggs of maple sugar. The boy, Luke, who is deaf, paints pictures that fit neatly inside the eggs. When a man bursts into their home and accuses them of hiding slaves, Luke's mother can honestly deny the charge. But she is that very day planning to meet their contact on the Underground Railroad to pass along information regarding the next "safe haven." Luke's mother is held at home, but the boy is courageous and resourceful in using his creative talents to help make the connection.

When the barn used for hiding runaway slaves burns to the ground, Luke, who is deaf, finds a unique way to pass along information about the next safe haven.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Judy Silverman
Luke's mother is a messenger for the Underground Railway. When slave catchers show up at their house, Luke must take the message about the new stage on the Railway to town, and deliver it to their contact. What complicates the matter is that Luke is deaf, and communicates with signs and his paintings. Although its format is that of a picture book, its content seems more suitable for ages 7-11. Riggio's pictures are, like Luke's, exquisite.
Children's Literature - Kathleen Karr
Set before the Civil War, Luke and his mother support themselves by making panoramic sugar eggs. Luke, who is deaf, expresses himself in sign language and in the pictures he paints for these eggs. When a slave catcher enters this abolitionist household and takes Luke hostage, the boy must use all his resources to pass on a critical sanctuary message. Author Riggio has combined her work with the deaf and her interest in panoramic eggs to create this unusual take on the Underground Railroad movement.
School Library Journal
K-Gr 3When slave catchers prevent Luke's mother from selling sugar eggs at the general store as she usually does, the boy, who communicates through sign language, must find the courage and means to deliver the information about a new hiding place for runaway slaves. He secretly removes a painting in one of the eggs and creates a replacement, thus identifying the new site, and puts the egg in the contact's hands. The illustrations, rendered in watercolor and gouache, are somewhat amateurish and anachronistic, e.g., Luke's paint box looks like it came from a modern-day Woolworths. While readers may be interested in how the deaf boy conveys the secret message, the story itself is contrived. Stronger books on the Underground Railroad include Faith Ringgold's Aunt Harriet's Underground Railroad in the Sky (Crown, 1993) and Michael Rosen's A School for Pompey Walker (Harcourt, 1995).Susan M. Moore, Louisville Free Public Library, KY
Kirkus Reviews
Riggio (A Moon in My Teacup, 1993, etc.) combines folk art and her experiences with sign language into a story about the Underground Railroad.

Luke, who is deaf, paints scenes on paper to insert into the sugar eggs he and Mama sell as novelties at the general store, but they are interrupted by a pair of wild-eyed slave catchers who burst into their house. They detain Mama but allow Luke to take the eggs to town, where he intends to pass along information about a safe haven to a contact on the Underground Railroad. As Luke and the man ride into town, the boy secretly disposes of a newly painted scene from one of the eggs. Once in the store, he easily spots his contact, and by turning the creation of a new scene into a small piece of performance art, distracts the slave- catcher long enough to transfer his valuable message. Although some readers may find the story interesting, it has a patched- together, arbitrary feel; the "secret signs" of the title are never mustered into an essential part of the story, not as sign language, nor as signals (e.g., the quilt outside the cabin in Pamela Duncan Edwards's Barefoot, p. 1736) that helped "passengers" of the Underground Railroad along the route.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781590780725
  • Publisher: Highlights Press
  • Publication date: 2/28/2003
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 32
  • Sales rank: 837,089
  • Age range: 5 - 8 Years
  • Product dimensions: 10.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.20 (d)

Meet the Author


Anita Riggio is also the author and illustrator of A Moon in My Teacup, which School Library Journal describes as "a meaningful story for many families to share." She lives in Connecticut.
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