SECRET SIGNS by Anita Riggio


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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.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1997
Page count: 32pp
Publisher: Boyds Mills