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I Talk Like a River



by
Jordan Scott
illustrated by
Sydney Smith

Edition
Hardcover edition
Publisher
Holiday House
Imprint
Neal Porter Books
ISBN
9780823445592

Awards and Honors
2021 Schneider Family Book Award for Best Young Children's Book
Publisher's Weekly Top 10 Best Picture Books of 2020
2021 Boston Globe-Horn Book Picture Book Award Winner
POTENTIALLY SENSITIVE AREAS
None
$19.56   $16.30
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I wake up each morning with the sounds of words all around me.
And I can’t say them all…


When a boy who stutters feels isolated, alone, and incapable of communicating in the way he’d like, it takes a kindly father and a walk by the river to help him find his voice. Compassionate parents everywhere will instantly recognize a father’s ability to reconnect a child with the world around him.

Poet Jordan Scott writes movingly in this powerful and ultimately uplifting book, based on his own experience, and masterfully illustrated by Greenaway Medalist Sydney Smith. A book for any child who feels lost, lonely, or unable to fit in.Author’s note. Full-color illustrations were created with watercolor, ink, and gouache.

POTENTIALLY SENSITIVE AREAS
None

Details

Format

Print

Page Count

40

Trim Size

10" x 9"

Dewey

F

AR

3.1: points 0.5

Genre

Fiction

Scholastic Reading Counts

0

JLG Release

Dec 2020

Book Genres

Picture Book

Topics

Stuttering. Words. Sounds. Schools. Fathers and sons. Rivers.

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Cover Art

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Praise & Reviews

Horn Book

In this lyrical and empowering picture book, Canadian poet Scott tells a story based on his own experiences as a boy who stuttered. In simple, evocative language, he captures the isolation, social devastation, and self-doubt of a child who feels incapable of communicating his thoughts and offers an affirming way to think about difference. As the boy’s dad picks him up from school one day and takes him for a walk by the river to de-stress and relax, the narrative goes beyond the calming solace found in the natural world to make a more profound comparison and connection. The man reassures his son that his speech is like a river. Using this imagery and language, the boy is able to think about his dysfluency in a new way, realizing that sometimes his speech is “bubbling, whirling, churning, and crashing”; sometimes calm and smooth, just like the ever-shifting waters of the river. Smith’s (Town Is by the Sea, rev. 3/17; Small in the City, rev. 11/19) verdant and light-infused paintings pack an emotional punch and provide the perfect complement to the poet’s words. The varied layouts and dazzling spreads keep the boy center stage and lovingly framed. An expressive double-page close-up of the boy’s face opens to a spectacularly effective gatefold of the child in the embrace of the river’s sparkling water (Smith captures the play of light on water like nobody else). I Talk like a River is not mere bibliotherapy; it is instead a meditation for all children on self-acceptance, finding one’s voice, and reconsidering what is labeled as normative. An important and unforgettable offering presented with natural beauty and grace. LUANN TOTH

School Library Journal

Gr 1-4-In first-person narration about the author as a boy, this debut brings readers into the world of dysfluency, that is, stuttering. The narrator, a white boy, sits alone at the kitchen table before school, imagining how badly his day will go, and it's even worse. The letters M, P, and C bring special terrors for the garbled sounds they demand of him in a school day, when the teacher asks students to describe a favorite place. His solitude is, for readers, almost unbearable until he returns to his understanding father. He knows about a "bad speech day," and takes his son to the river. There, without many words, he explains how his son talks like the river, with ebbs and flows, a rush of sounds, emotion, and meaning streaming. The boy's dawning realization brings the story to a resonant pause, in a foldout that opens to a vast four-page spread of the sparkling waters that surround him. And then the remembrance resumes, for when he returns to school, he talks about his special place in his own manner, his dysfluency making him and his telling unique. Smith's lyrical, color-saturated paintings capture mighty nature as well as the blurred, staring faces of schoolmates, who mock and laugh but mostly do not understand the main character's inner world. An author's note, in tiny type but very personal and expressive, outlines the journey Scott has taken to make peace with himself. VERDICT By turns heartbreaking and illuminating, this picture book brings one more outsider into the fold through economy of language and an abundance of love.-Kimberly Olson Fakih, School Library Journal?(c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Praise & Reviews

Horn Book

In this lyrical and empowering picture book, Canadian poet Scott tells a story based on his own experiences as a boy who stuttered. In simple, evocative language, he captures the isolation, social devastation, and self-doubt of a child who feels incapable of communicating his thoughts and offers an affirming way to think about difference. As the boy’s dad picks him up from school one day and takes him for a walk by the river to de-stress and relax, the narrative goes beyond the calming solace found in the natural world to make a more profound comparison and connection. The man reassures his son that his speech is like a river. Using this imagery and language, the boy is able to think about his dysfluency in a new way, realizing that sometimes his speech is “bubbling, whirling, churning, and crashing”; sometimes calm and smooth, just like the ever-shifting waters of the river. Smith’s (Town Is by the Sea, rev. 3/17; Small in the City, rev. 11/19) verdant and light-infused paintings pack an emotional punch and provide the perfect complement to the poet’s words. The varied layouts and dazzling spreads keep the boy center stage and lovingly framed. An expressive double-page close-up of the boy’s face opens to a spectacularly effective gatefold of the child in the embrace of the river’s sparkling water (Smith captures the play of light on water like nobody else). I Talk like a River is not mere bibliotherapy; it is instead a meditation for all children on self-acceptance, finding one’s voice, and reconsidering what is labeled as normative. An important and unforgettable offering presented with natural beauty and grace. LUANN TOTH

School Library Journal

Gr 1-4-In first-person narration about the author as a boy, this debut brings readers into the world of dysfluency, that is, stuttering. The narrator, a white boy, sits alone at the kitchen table before school, imagining how badly his day will go, and it's even worse. The letters M, P, and C bring special terrors for the garbled sounds they demand of him in a school day, when the teacher asks students to describe a favorite place. His solitude is, for readers, almost unbearable until he returns to his understanding father. He knows about a "bad speech day," and takes his son to the river. There, without many words, he explains how his son talks like the river, with ebbs and flows, a rush of sounds, emotion, and meaning streaming. The boy's dawning realization brings the story to a resonant pause, in a foldout that opens to a vast four-page spread of the sparkling waters that surround him. And then the remembrance resumes, for when he returns to school, he talks about his special place in his own manner, his dysfluency making him and his telling unique. Smith's lyrical, color-saturated paintings capture mighty nature as well as the blurred, staring faces of schoolmates, who mock and laugh but mostly do not understand the main character's inner world. An author's note, in tiny type but very personal and expressive, outlines the journey Scott has taken to make peace with himself. VERDICT By turns heartbreaking and illuminating, this picture book brings one more outsider into the fold through economy of language and an abundance of love.-Kimberly Olson Fakih, School Library Journal?(c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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