Written with precision, lyricism and compassion, I Talk Like a River is a tale about stuttering drawn from author Jordan Scott’s non-public experience.
A boy is ashamed of his efforts to provide words and the resultant facial contortions: “All they see,” he says, relating to his classmates, “is how strange my face looks and that I can’t hide how scared I am.” The boy’s father recognizes that his son has had a “terrible speech day” and takes him to a place where they can be quiet. At the river, the pair watches the water because it churns but is “calm . . . beyond the rapids.” Pulling his son close, the father factors to the water. “That’s the way you speak,” he says.
Illustrator Sydney Smith (Town Is by the Sea, Small in the City) makes use of thick, impressionistic brushstrokes that dazzle as he represents the boy’s roiling indoors world. In one gripping spread approximately the boy’s worry of public speaking, we see the classroom from his point of view. Students stare, their faces vague smudges of paint, the whole room distorted via the boy’s panic. But at the river—in which Smith showcases the mesmerizing play of mild on water in a dramatic double gatefold—the world turns into clearer.
Smith additionally plays visually with some of the book’s figurative language. The boy cites elements from nature as examples of the letters he finds most tough to pronounce (P, C and M). Smith consists of them into a striking spread wherein pine tree branches, a shrieking crow and the outline of a crescent moon cover the boy’s face.
Without providing pat answers or resorting to sentimentality, I Talk Like a River reverently acknowledges the boy’s hardship. Scott’s story is as much about observant, loving parenting as it's miles approximately the struggle to speak fluently, because the boy’s father generously equips his son with a metaphorical framework to recognize or even take delight in his stutter: “My dad says I communicate like a river.” This is certainly one of the quality photograph books of 2020.