Show Me a Sign is more than a story — it’s a legacy.
On Martha’s Vineyard, no one cares if you are Hearing or Deaf. You’re just…you.
Mary has always loved the island – she loves running through the woods and making up dangerously fun stories about fairies and pirates and wood spirits. She loves learning about the customs of the indigenous community from her friend, Nancy, and tagging along with Thomas, a freedman and former slave, as he works the grounds her Papa tends.
When Andrew, a scientist from the Mainland, comes to the village, everyone is skeptical; outsiders are usually not welcomed unless they have family on the island. Why is he asking questions about how the village became this way? How could bottling up water and dirt in little vials possibly be helpful? They islanders aren’t Deaf because of dirt – it’s just the way they were born. The way this man treats Mary’s Papa (and all the other Deaf islanders) like he’s lesser than and like he can’t think for himself makes Mary wonder what his true motives are. How far is this scientist willing to go in the name of “research?”
Mary’s voice guides readers through her silent world in a way that will change the way they think about the Deaf Community. You will both laugh and grieve with Mary in this book, and, at times, you’ll be afraid for her.
Show Me a Sign is based on a phenomenon that duped scientists for decades.
A place where families could have both Hearing and Deaf children born to the same parents and where everyone could communicate using Martha’s Vineyard Sign Language (MVSL), regradless of whether they needed to or not, was simply unheard of at the time. Weren’t the Deaf all dumb and incapable of building normal lives? The detail in which Mary’s story delves into is truly heartbreaking. To see a child treated like an animal and beaten for using the only language she’s ever communicated with is awful, but it’s also an image that reminded me of the injustice that still exists in our world. We may not believe the ridiculous idea that being Deaf is the same as being dumb, but we have yet to master the art of loving the people around us no matter how different they are from what we deem “normal.”
To say that this story is worth reading is an understatement. If I could give a copy to every middle-grade teacher out there, I would! Whether you’re 9 or 59, you will reap the benefits of Mary’s journey. So, what are you waiting for?
If you enjoyed El Deafo, The War that Saved my Life, and Wonder, you will love this story!
Physical and Emotional Abuse: While the Deaf Community is accepted on the island, Mary encounters people who believe the Deaf are less than human, and as such, they are treated like animals. There are a few mentions of Mary being hit by an adult, as well as several instances in which the adults speak poorly about Mary, her family, and her community.
Recommended Age: 9+
Questions to consider
***Have you ever met someone in the Deaf Community? What was it like communicating with them?
***Why do you think Andrew was so cruel toward Mary? Was it just because she was Deaf, or was it something else?
***Have you noticed that some people are not treated with the same kindness and respect as others? How does this make you feel? What could you do to change this?