Review of Set Me Free

Set Me Free
by Ann Clare LeZotte
Intermediate, Middle School    Scholastic    288 pp.    g
9/21    978-1-338-74249-7    $18.99
e-book ed.  978-1-338-81021-9    $11.99

In this sequel to Show Me a Sign (rev. 9/20), deaf, signing Mary, now fourteen, once again leaves her home on Martha’s Vineyard — where being deaf and signing is part of the established culture — for Boston and environs, a world in which deafness is considered monstrous or, at best, pitiable. Mary has taken up a request that she teach language to a seemingly non-lingual, deaf child of an affluent family. When she arrives at their manor, she finds her charge locked away and the household governed by an abusive butler. As Mary experiments with teaching methods, she realizes that her student’s condition is quite different than was supposed, and in an audacious act of rescue returns the child to her proper home. Throughout, as in the previous novel, LeZotte sensitively interweaves and illuminates historical, white attitudes toward deaf people, the Wampanoag people, and the Black population, all the while championing Mary’s forthright insistence that all be treated with respect. Mary seems set to become a true hero-adventurer, an almost larger-than-life sleuth, teacher, and woman of action; and while the story’s subject matter is serious in its engagement with history’s ills, LeZotte conveys a sense of real enjoyment in having Mary disrupt (a little anachronistically, perhaps) the prejudices and expectations of the status quo.

From the November/December 2021 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Deirdre Baker
Deirdre F. Baker
Deirdre F. Baker, a reviewer for The Horn Book Magazine and the Toronto Star, teaches children’s literature at the University of Toronto. The author of Becca at Sea (Groundwood), she is currently at work on a sequel—written in the past tense.

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