“I talk like a river.”
“Even the river stutters. Like I do.”
The boy in this story has days when he struggles to speak – a bad speech day. When he wakes in the morning he can see and hear the sounds but he can’t say them at all. It gets worse when he goes to school because he dreads the teacher asking him a question in class. Then he knows everyone will turn and look at him and it will make it even harder to speak. Worse still is the fact that the other children giggle and laugh at the sounds he makes. One morning his teacher asks the children to give a speech about their favourite place and he knows this will be the hardest thing of all. After school his dad takes him down to his favourite place – the river. He thinks about his bad speech day and cries. His Dad hugs him and tells him “You talk like the river”. The boy takes strength from this and begins to use the idea of the river and the different ways it moves (bubbling, churning, crashing or smooth and calm) to help him speak. The next day he is ready to tell his teacher all about the river.
The words in the book are very articulate but the reader is aware that the boy cannot say them. I liked the gentleness and calmness of the book and the way it portrays the natural world around us. The illustrations are varied, with some clear and some more abstract – they show how the boy is feeling in how they change. It tells us that what we see and hear of people is only the surface, and we shouldn’t be too quick to laugh or judge because, like a river, people have hidden depths.