I Talk Like a River by Canadians Jordan Scott and Sydney Smith is a powerful picture book told through the thoughts of a young boy who stutters. He is surrounded by sounds. When he wakes up in the morning, the sounds of the words that are all around him become stuck in his mouth stopping any other words from coming through. These sounds grow roots, get tangled and stuck. Through clever personification, these sounds come to life and the boy battles against them in his desire to speak.
School is too much of a challenge and, in the end, it’s easier to stay quiet, to hide, to avoid having to talk, to go home. It’s a bad speech day. He is lost and lonely, isolated and embarrassed, trapped…
Thankfully, Dad understands and takes him somewhere quiet, somewhere where the sounds are calmed. The natural imagery of the river creates a beautiful picture of the boy’s speech. The twists and turns, the bubbling, whirling, churning, crashing of his words as they make their way out. He talks like a river.
With this realisation, the boy feels more centred and focused. He finds clarity and a sense of who he is. He feels valued and free. There will be bad speech days but he is able to make sense of himself and express who he is in a way both he and others can understand.
Sydney Smith’s incredible illustrations give power to the boy’s words and build on the emotion of the text. As a Canadian, I’m reminded of the strength and beauty of the river and the calming influence of nature.
This is a such a valuable story for building empathy in readers – not just in children, but in everyone who picks up this beautiful book. It is a must-have for every classroom.
Thank you to Walker Books for this important book.
This picture book will sit perfectly alongside the middle grade novel The Boy Who Made Everyone Laugh by Helen Rutter – a story about Billy Plimpton, a boy with a stammer. As he leaves Year 6 and begins secondary school, he is terrified of others finding out. He does all he can to hide his voice and think of ways to cure his stammer so he can follow his dreams of becoming a stand-up comedian – and not be embarrassed about who he is every single day. In the process, Billy must learn to face so many fears. From school presentations to persistent bullies to the school talent show, Billy is exhausted by life and is running out of ideas. Click here to read my review of The Boy Who Made Everyone Laugh.
Click on the covers below to find out more or purchase on-line from Amazon.
Click on the covers below to find out more or purchase on-line from Waterstones.