I Talk Like a River
In this moving, deeply personal account, I Talk Like a River explains how one boy navigates "a bad speech day" with the help of his understanding father and a visit to his "favorite place in the world."
The boy wakes each morning with "the sounds of words all around," but some are too difficult to say. One especially unbearable day, his teacher insists that he answer a question. The child's classmates watch his "lips twist and twirl," their mouths "giggling and laughing" while he tries to speak. Fortunately, after school, his dad suggests a trip to the river, a river that moves the way the boy speaks--"bubbling, churning, whirling, and crashing" before it finds its "smooth and glistening" calm after the rapids. The boy finds comfort here because, just like him, "even the river stutters."
By tying the experience of stuttering to nature, award-winning poet Jordan Scott (who is a stutterer) skillfully allows the protagonist to feel part of a grander design, and the hurt caused by a mouth that "isn't working" can be put into perspective. Scott's end notes explain how the river taught him "to think differently about fluency," and his beautiful text attests to his success. Sydney Smith's (Small in the City) astonishing watercolor, ink and gouache art illuminates what is written, and what lies beneath. The impressionistic paintings bring readers close to the boy's pain and allow them to experience, seemingly firsthand, his solace, too. There is plenty for all readers to glean from this boy's "proud river." --Lynn Becker, blogger and host of Book Talk, a monthly online discussion of children's books for SCBWI