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Children's Fiction Self-esteem & Self-reliance

I Talk Like a River

by (author) Jordan Scott

illustrated by Sydney Smith

Holiday House
Initial publish date
Sep 2020
Self-Esteem & Self-Reliance, Parents, Poetry (see also Stories in Verse)
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Sep 2020
    List Price

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Where to buy it

Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 4 to 8
  • Grade: p to 3


Winner of the Schneider Family Book Award
Boston Globe-Horn Book Award Winner

What if words got stuck in the back of your mouth whenever you tried to speak” What if they never came out the way you wanted them to?
Sometimes it takes a change of perspective to get the words flowing.
A New York Times Best Children's Book of the Year

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.

Finalist for the BC and Yukon Christie Harris Illustrated Children’s Literature Prize
An American Library Association Notable Children’s Book
ILA Primary Fiction Honoree
Named a Best Book of the Year by The Wall Street Journal, People Magazine, NPR, Kirkus Reviews, Shelf Awareness, Bookpage, School Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, Publishers Lunch, and more!
A Horn Book Fanfare Best Book of the Year
A Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection
A Chicago Public Library Best Book of the Year
A CBC Best Picture Book of the Year

About the authors

New Westminster, BC native Jordan Scott is a graduate student in creative writing at the University of Calgary. He has published several chapbooks, including A Walking History of Wladyslaw's Body In Parts and Mere Mismemory. His work has also appeared in Matrix, Filling Station, and other journals. He lives in Calgary.

Jordan Scott's profile page

Sydney Smith was born in rural Nova Scotia and has been drawing from an early age. Since graduating from NSCAD University, he has illustrated multiple children’s books, including the highly acclaimed wordless picture book Sidewalk Flowers, conceived by Jon Arno Lawson, which won a Governor General’s Award, was named a New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Book and has been long-listed for the Kate Greenaway Medal. He is also the illustrator of Grant and Tillie Go Walking by Monica Kulling and The White Cat and the Monk by Jo Ellen Bogart, both highly acclaimed. Sydney has received a number of other awards for his illustrations, including the Lillian Shepherd Memorial Award for Excellence in Illustration. He now lives in Toronto and works in a shared studio space in Chinatown.

Sydney Smith's profile page

Editorial Reviews

"An empathetic conversation-starter for families seeking help for a young — or not so young — person who stutters."—The New York Times
"This wrenching and beautiful book will give succor to children who stutter and expand the hearts of those lucky enough to take fluency for granted."The Wall Street Journal
"This important (and stunning) book promotes self-acceptance . . . as well as empathy" —The San Francisco Chronicle
"One of the most powerful books that I’ve read in 2020."—The Globe and Mail

"lyrical and empowering . . . An important and unforgettable offering presented with natural beauty and grace."—The Horn Book, Starred Review
— "This is unquestionably one of the best picture books of 2020." Book Page, Starred Review
— "An astounding articulation of both what it feels like to be different and how to make peace with it."Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review
— "By turns heartbreaking and illuminating, this picture book brings one more outsider into the fold through economy of language and an abundance of love."—School Library Journal, Starred Review
— "Full of reassurance and understanding, this is a much needed look at a common language problem." Booklist, Starred Review
“"a boy who stutters is given a new way to think about his speech. . . . Artwork makes the internal change a light-filled experience"—Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

— "In this moving, deeply personal . . . There is plenty for all readers to glean from this boy's 'proud river.'"—Shelf Awareness, Starred Review
— " Smith’s watercolour imagery in the book’s early parts is soft and edgeless. . . . . It’s only when his dad takes him for a walk along the river that the art firms up. The pair are now framed by the darkly delineated silhouette of tree trunks while the crisp, subtle hues of autumn leaves are reflected in the water next to them."—Quill & Quire, Starred Review

"An exceptional work."—Toronto Star

"Deft poetic language pairs with the resonant watercolors of Sydney Smith to create a book that is more than a memoir and more than conveying a message. This is pain, turned into art, and written for young children. Incomparable."—A Fuse #8 Production
"A sensitive portrayal of the isolation and stigma felt by a kid with speech difficulties." Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

"Jordan Scott pulls from his own childhood experience to explore the way his father helped him accept his stutter and offers support for anyone who is differently abled."—BC BookLook
"From its sunlit, breathtaking cover illustration of a freckled boy immersed in a moving river to the lyrical text by a B.C. poet drawing on his childhood experiences growing up with a stutter, this is a book for all ages."—Montreal Gazette
"This is a stunning picture book."—Sal's Fiction Addiction
"Poet Jordan Scott gives us an empathetic picture book from the perspective of a boy who stutters.  . . . Sydney Smith's flowing images explain and enhance the text."—BookLoons

Other titles by Jordan Scott

Other titles by Sydney Smith

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