I Talk Like a River
Jordan Scott and Sydney Smith
(Walker Books)– hardback
I Talk Like a River, ‘bubbling, whirling, churning, and crashing‘. When Jordan’s father takes him to the river on ‘a bad speech day’ it’s to look at the water and realise that as the ‘water moves/ That’s how’ he speaks.
On days when the ‘word-sounds‘ are stuck in his mouth, Jordan prepares to hide, from eating his breakfast ‘without a peep‘ to hiding in the classroom. It feels as though he has a pine tree, a crow ‘Caw! Caw!‘ and ‘moonlight that shines from [his] open mouth’. Can it be that from watching the river, Jordan can stop himself from crying, or from ‘not wanting to speak at all‘? After all there are places where the river is calm, and others where the river is proud and stumbles, just as Jordan does when ‘the words around [him]are hard to say’.
Jordan Scott uses his own experience as a stutterer within this lyrical, heart-wrenching text. Thereafter, award-winning illustrator Sydney Smith of Small in the City and Town is By the Sea builds evocative pictures of distance, anguish, realisation and depth. It seems as though her use of colour and textural awareness is emotionally tangible.
Bookwagon counted down until I Talk Like a River became available in Britain. It was worth the wait for this picture book is quite magnificent in its story, message and construction.
New York Times Picture Book of the Year