I Talk Like A River

Here is a book about the sounds of words, the feeling of saying, and the isolation and barriers that speech impediments can bring. Furthermore, it’s a book about a kind and thoughtful father, gently parsing and reframing – helping to put language on experience – and how this connection can change everything.

Jordan Scott, a lauded poet, writes through the eyes of a struggling child. Alliteration is cleverly used to draw attention to the feeling of consonants in our mouths. Imagery is masterful, and linked to the inanimate in nature – the hard cold isolation of despair (‘I stay quiet as a stone’), and the pain and frustration of feeling difference (‘my eyes fill with rain’), contrasts beautifully with the moving dynamism of hope (‘I talk like a river’). Sydney Smith interprets this poetry with shimmering, impressionistic watercolour painting. Sunlight bounces about the book, giving a clear sense of the passage of time.

Life moves in and out of focus, as stress and anxiety build and subside inside our protagonist. Nature provides relief, but only after the sanctuary of his father’s truck brings our narrator’s face back into focus. Here he can be seen as he is, with this One Good Adult who understands. Following the revelation that his speech is part of nature, our protagonist brings this knowledge with him back to the classroom. We see him imagine himself immersed in the river, ready to swim.

A poignant epilogue tells the touching origin of the story in the author’s own life. Suited for 5–8 year olds and beyond.