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I Talk Like a River
A white boy wakes every morning surrounded by the sounds of words (P for the pine tree outside, C for the crow perched on a branch, M for the fading moon) but can’t say them (“The P in pine tree grows roots inside my mouth and tangles my tongue.”). He stays quiet during breakfast, and hopes he won’t have to talk in class, where other students can’t see the sounds inside him; they only see the fear on his face, and hear the difference in his speech. After school his dad takes him for a walk along the river, where the quiet and companionship is comforting, but doesn’t erase the day’s pain. The father comparing his son’s speech to the movement of the river’s water gives the boy something to hold onto during distressing and lonely moments. “When the words around me are hard to say, I think of the proud river, bubbling, churning, whirling, and crashing.” An excellent author’s note relates his own experience with stuttering and owning his speech as “terrifyingly beautiful”—like a river. Stunning watercolor, ink, and gouache illustrations capture the child’s emotional landscape framed in the beauty of the natural world. Honor Book, 2021-2022 Charlotte Zolotow Award ©2021 Cooperative Children’s Book Center
Illustrated by Sydney Smith
CCBC Age Recommendation: Ages 4-8
Age Range: PreK-Early Elementary (Ages 4-7) Grades 3-5 (Ages 8-10)
Format: Picture book
Subjects: Affirmation Difference/Individuality Fathers Fear Feelings/Emotions Nature/Environment School Stuttering
Diversity subject: Cognitive/Neurological
Holiday House, Neal Porter Books
Publish Year: 2020
CCBC Location: Picture Book, Scott
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