Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Secret to Freedom” as Want to Read:
The Secret to Freedom
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Secret to Freedom

4.28  ·  Rating details ·  108 ratings  ·  33 reviews
In the days before the Civil War, a young enslaved girl and her older brother help slaves escape to freedom using the Underground Railroad quilt code.

Lucy is just a young girl when her parents are sold off the plantation where her family lives. Oh, how she wishes things could be different. One day Lucy's older brother, Albert, comes home with something that can make a diff
Paperback, 32 pages
Published May 1st 2002 by Lee & Low Books (first published 2001)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Secret to Freedom, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Secret to Freedom

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.28  · 
Rating details
 ·  108 ratings  ·  33 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Secret to Freedom
Oct 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: childhood
This is an informative book about the way that slaves used patterns on a quilt to communicate in order to escape through the underground railroad in the times of slavery in the south. The story centers around a girl that was taught to use the symbols by her brother to signal African American slaves.
Evelyn Repass
Jan 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-to-rob, kids
A touching story about a family's history, with a clever use of quilt codes used as beacon lights for runaway slaves on the Underground Road to Freedom. ...more
Katie Quagliana
The Secret to Freedom by Marcia K. Vaughan has not won any awards however the author is an award winning author.
This book is for K-2nd grade.
This book is about a young girl in the Civil War period and is in slavery. Her parents are sold and separated from her. She only has her brother who one day brings her quilts. These quilts are symbols for the Underground railroad. Her brother is caught and has to flee and she is left behind. She gives her brother a yellow star quilt. He flees and she is l
Carlie Morrison
May 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Awards: None
Summary: When Lucy and her Brother Albert's parents are sold to another plantation they are left on their own. They come across a sack of quilts and within find a way to escape. Lucy stays on the plantation while her brother leaves the plantation to find the underground railroad. Giving her brother a piece of the quilt for good luck she bids him farewell. One day Lucy receives the piece of quilt she had given her brother in the mail. Albert was alive and well!
Review: The heartbreaki
Dave Gibbons
Jul 02, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Rachel Day
Jan 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a wonderful heartwarming book about devotion and loyalty to family that centers around a South Carolina slave family right before the Civil War. It is told in the first-person voice by the now older woman who lived the experience of being a slave, witnessing the cruelty of a ruthless overseer, seeing her family torn asunder, the abolishment of slavery and eventual freedom, happiness found in marriage, and the joy of reconnecting with her surviving brother. Highly recommend for teachers a ...more
Anastasia Pavlides
Apr 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: historical
1. No awards were received for this book.
2. 1st-5th Grade
3. This book takes place during the Civil War, when a young girl Lucy fears she will never see her brother again after he get caught helping slaves escape the Underground Railroad.
4. I like this book because it clearly depicts the difficult times our Country has faced in the past.
5. I would use this book in the classroom by using it identify characters and their traits.
Emily Farquhar
Mar 28, 2019 rated it liked it
A story set in civil war times about a girl and her family who have been separated due to slavery. One day her brother comes home with a sack of old quilts with a mission to help others escape through patterns created in the quilts. This story has vivid pictures that bring the story to life.

6 traits: ideas, voice, organization
F&P: G
AR: 1.4
Jun 06, 2020 added it
This book is really good for learning about the specific patterns slaves used to make their quilts, and what each signifies. I’d be uncomfortable using this for a read-aloud myself, because there is so much African American vernacular. It includes an upsetting scene of Lucy’s brother being whipped, and it’s fairly text-heavy, so I’d probably save it for upper elementary grades.
Lauren Hanford
May 04, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: lla-methods
Lexile: 650L
Beautiful illustrations. Longer texts with a lot of dialogue. This book is definitely made for older young readers with the amount of text and longer words it holds.
Samantha Brumbaugh
Oct 08, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fluent-books
Summary:In the days before the Civil War, a young enslaved girl and her older brother help slaves escape to freedom using the Underground Railroad quilt code. In this story this little girl has grown up and is now sharing her story with younger generations.
Genre: Fictional Picture Book
Reading Level:This book is fluent. This book is fluent because it has a lot of text on each page and is a long picture book. The font is very small and it has a lot of information within the text. This book has ha
Feb 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Title: The Secret to Freedom

Author: Marcia Vaughan

Recommended Ages or grades: 8 - 10

This book tells the story of the underground railroads. Lucy tells her story to her granddaughter of her life on the plantation. She is a young girl when her parents are sold off to another plantation. She knows that she will never see her parents again. Now it is just she and her brother Albert. Albert, who has been helping slaves escape through the Underground Railroad, comes to Lucy and shares with her the sec
Jan 18, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: african-american
Last week I introduced slavery and the Underground Railroad to my after-school second graders by reading "Henry's Freedom Box." The children were quite engaged by this chapter in American history and I followed up the next day by reading "The Secret to Freedom."

Marcia Vaughan details an enslaved family and their struggle to survive a difficult time. After their parents are sold off, a brother and sister secretly help others escape to freedom by guiding their travels with a secret quilt code. Th
Rachael LaRochelle
Feb 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
The Secret to Freedom by Marcia Vaughan

Lucy was a young girl when her parents were sold to another plantation. She is left with only her brother Albert and she knows that she will never see her parents again. Albert is involved with helping to transport slaves via the underground railroad. One day he slips a secret message to Lucy that is hidden in old quilt. The messages are in a secret code that only the slaves know and when it is hung out on the old fence it is their cue that there is a messa
Brittany Davis
Sep 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: libs-642
The last book I came across is one that caught my attention by the title and the illustration on the cover. It is called The Secret to Freedom written by Marcia Vaughn and illustrated by Larry Johnson. The illustration on the front is of a young African American girl on a plantation holding a quilt, quite a moving photograph. The book is about a grandmother, Lucy, telling her granddaughter about her childhood growing up on a slave plantation. At a young age Lucy and her brother, Albert, were sep ...more
Feb 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
Author: Marcia Vaughan
Reading Level: 3rd - 5th Grade

This book was another book that I really enjoyed reading. It's about slavery and it talks about a young girl's life. Her parents were sold to another owner and her brother and her were left all alone. Her brother helped others escape to freedom using a quilt. One day, she told her brother to leave because the overseer wanted to whip him every time he saw her brother. He escaped, the war was over and the slaves were free. Lucy didn't know if her
Jan 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a book about an aunt telling her niece the story of her and her brother's freedom. Through this book, the young girl learns about slavery and the underground railroad and many other important aspects of African American history. I like the way this book explains the bad parts of slavery it does not "sugar coat" anything for the reader. But yet the book is written in a way that young children can easily understand what is going on. Books like this one are needed to teach children about sl ...more
May 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
The Secret to Freedom is a great account of a family managing to survive during slavery. Before reading this book, I didn't know that slaves used quilts to communicate messages of the underground railroad. I believe this is a beautifully crafted and well written book that I believe that children will really enjoy. This book gives a realistic idea of what people during this time had to experience. In addition this children will enjoy the colorful illustrations that bring this story to life. I hig ...more
Oct 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed the storyline, this book really paints a great picture of a grandma telling her story of what happened during those difficult times. I liked how she described the quilt, and the importance of it. Also how she received the little piece she had made for her brother who ran away. Whom she hadn't seen since slavery was over. This is a very touching story that I am sure others who went through that can relate and share. The secret to freedom made a lot of sense to the slaves and the owners ...more
This historical fiction picture book set just prior to the Civil War tells the story of a slave girl and her brother who learn how to use quilts to communicate “signals” on the Underground Railroad. In retelling this childhood story to her niece, the now elderly girl recounts how her brother ran away and was reunited with her some twenty years later. The author’s note and back cover pictures explain each quilt pattern and its meaning. This book makes a great read aloud to introduce the topics of ...more
Jessica Vandewarker
Mar 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing
The Secret of Freedom is a wonderful book about how quilts are used in the Underground Railroad. This book depicts one families tale of how they survived slavery. It gives a pretty realistic look into what life was like. Students will enjoy the colorful illustrations and will learn a lot. A possible response activity will be to have students make one of their own quilt. The two stories are juxtaposed to create a masterful story.
Jun 08, 2014 rated it really liked it
Marcia Vaughan did a nice job in this work of historical fiction, set before or during the Civil War, about a lame young girl who was unable to attempt the Underground Railroad travel herself, yet shared information from displayed selected quilts that aided other slaves on their own exodus. This story is told exceptionally well, but very young children may have time dealing with some of the more graphic descriptions or visuals of a young slave man being beaten.
Spencer Wanlass
The Secret to Freedom is about a family who are slaves on a plantation. After their parents are sold to another plantation, the brother decides to run away, but before he does, he lets his sister on some secrets. He tells her the patterns to look for and signs of safe houses and the different patterns quilts have to relay messages. Her brother escapes and she soon is freed. Years later after she is married with kids, she is reunited with her brother in whom she thought was dead.
Haley Whitehall
Sep 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is a well-written and beautifully illustrated story about the slavery and how quilts were part of the Underground Railroad. However, I was disappointed that the story itself did not use more of the quilt blocks. Yes, there is a list and explanation of all of them in the back. Other children's books like The Patchwork Path: A Quilt Map to Freedom by Bettye Stroud include all of the blocks. ...more
Jul 26, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Published: 2001
Theme: Slavery/Underground Railroad/Hidden messages
Summary: A story of how a young boy and his sister helped to lead many slaves to freedom by the means of quilts. Each quilt had a message of what to do and when.
Nov 09, 2011 rated it liked it
It is remarkable that various quilt patterns were secret code for various pieces of the underground railroad. By hanging a quilt on the line, slave preparing to run would coordinate when to pack, what to pack, whether to find and wear a disguise or avoid major roads, etc. Amazing.
Lauralee Lambert
Sep 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
This was a good story about slavery and the Underground Railroad. It gives an interesting perspective of a young girl and her sudden involvement in helping slaves to escape simply by hanging up quilts as secret messages. The artwork is beautiful and makes the book worth reading all by itself.
Brittany Gormong
Jan 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: diversity, historical
As a response activity, students could make their own patch to add to a freedom quilt to hang in the room. They could research several patterns prior to constructing them with either a) construction paper or b) sewing materials.

Author: Marcia Vaughan
Illustrator: Larry Johnson
Ali Mccauley
I love the real story this book tells about the Underground Railroad. It was a great thing, that did not always turn our well for those who helped. However, I did like that in this particular story there was a happy ending, even if it was after years of waiting.
Lauren Johnson
I liked this book a lot because it gave insight to how life was like years ago for African Americans. It gives insight into culture and there are awesome response activities that can be done with it.
« previous 1 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Cow Buzzed
  • Ginger
  • Ginger and the Mystery Visitor
  • I Swapped My Dog
  • Go to Bed, Monster!
  • Grandma's Gift
  • This Quiet Lady
  • The Seashore Book
  • Oh, Brother
  • The Sugar Child
  • Too Many Carrots
  • This House, Once
  • Spencer's New Pet
  • Interstellar Cinderella
  • If I Built a Car
  • The Ring Bearer
  • A Loud Winter's Nap
  • Monster and Mouse Go Camping
See similar books…
Marcia Vaughan became a librarian in 1975 so that she could inspire children to read. After a short while, she began writing her own books. Her first two stories were never published but her third, ‘Wombat Stew’, illustrated by Pamela Lofts, was published in 1984. It might now be considered a classic of Australian children’s literature.

Related Articles

  Mahogany L. Browne is the author of Chlorine Sky, Woke: A Young Poets Call to Justice, Woke Baby, and Black Girl Magic. She's also the...
29 likes · 5 comments