Keepers of the Secret Code
by K J Williams and Teresa Kemp
Publication Date: Nov 01, 2021
List Price: $16.99
Format: Hardcover, 120 pages
Target Age Group: Middle Grade
Imprint: Doodle and Peck Publishing
Publisher: Doodle and Peck Publishing
Parent Company: Doodle and Peck Publishing
Peter Farrow is a slave. He’s grown up with his family on Dover Plantation, South Carolina where he does small jobs. When he’s not working, Peter likes to play with the other slave’s children, or go fishing with the master’s daughter, Emily. Sometimes, he even gets to sit in on Emily’s school lessons and learn to read.
Since Peter is almost twelve, it’s time for him to learn a trade. The master has agreed for Peter to apprentice with Samuel, the plantation’s carpenter. Peter is happy he won’t have to fetch and carry anymore, or work in the dairy, churning butter. However, Peter’s mother decides it’s time he learns the family’s secret. She and her husband have been active in the Underground Railroad, helping slaves escape. They use secret codes sewn into quilts and wagons with a secret hiding place. When traveling to other plantations doing work for the master, Peter’s father transports runaways in the wagon’s false bottom. Until now, Peter has been too young to keep a secret of this magnitude.
But John, the cruel overseer, has other plans for Peter. He wants Peter out in the fields, doing the backbreaking work of a grownup slave, where Peter is close enough to feel his whip. When Peter comes between Samuel and the sadistic overseer’s whip, Peter makes a terrible enemy. Overseer John alerts the master about Emily spending too much time with Peter. When the two friends are caught together multiple times, the master decides to sell Peter down south.
Distraught, Peter’s mother and father decide to “transport” him away from Dover Plantation before he can be sold. Using the secret quilt codes, other runaways join Peter’s family as they make their way to the first safe house on the Underground Railroad. When they arrive, Peter’s parents make the hard decision to send him on to Canada with Samuel while they remain in South Carolina, helping more runaways escape to freedom.
A poignant tale of an enslaved family making the difficult decision to “do their part” for their kinsmen instead of running together toward their own freedom.