National Stuttering Awareness Week is May 11-17, 2015
Vince Vawter, Author
Yearling, Imprint of Random House Children’s Books, Fiction, 2013
Winner: 2014 Newbery Honor Book
Themes: Stuttering, Newspaper carriers, Self-esteem, Race-relations, Family life
Suitable for Ages: 10-14
Book Jacket Synopsis: LITTLE MAN throws the meanest fastball in town. But talking is a whole different ball game. He can barely say a word without stuttering –not even his own name. So when he takes over his best friend’s paper route for the month of July, he’s not exactly looking forward to interacting with the customers. But it’s the neighborhood junkman, a bully and thief, who stirs up real trouble in Little Man’s Life.
What I like about this book:
- Finally, a realistic book written about an 11-year-old boy who struggles with stuttering! And, it is based on author Vince Vawter’s own experiences with stuttering as a child and adult in the 1950’s. It will be especially meaningful to anyone who has a stuttering problem. Every page reminds you of the day-to-day challenge for someone who stutters — it is exhausting.
- The book opens with a great hook sentence: “I’m typing about the stabbing for a good reason. I can’t talk. Without stuttering.” The reader is compelled to keep reading this first-person narrative because you know something big is going to happen. Typing is how the paperboy shares his story.
- Paperboy is an unforgettable coming of age book, set in 1959, when Memphis, TN, is segregated. The plot is engaging. After the paperboy takes his friends paper route for a month, he meets many neighbors along his route (each with a story) that expose him to inequality, spousal abuse, racial tensions, and a bully junkman who steals his knife. He also meets an older gentleman who becomes his mentor.
- All of the characters are memorable and well-developed. The paperboy is intelligent, clever, compassionate, observant, and courageous. His growth is something readers will cheer!
- The pacing of the story starts out like a lazy hot summer day and continues to build into an eruption of violent behavior at the end. I believe most 10-year-old kids can handle the chapters, because it is important to the story. The story is a page turner.
- The ending reflects the paperboy’s summer journey and is satisfying. He stands up in his new 7th grade classroom and says his name, even though he stutters. Until the last page, the reader doesn’t know his name.
- Stuttering is a top topic researched by visitors to my website, and sadly enough I only a few picture books and novels to share.
- As other reviewers have noted, Paperboy is reminiscent of To Kill a Mockingbird. I tend to agree. This is a heartfelt story that will stay with you long after you close the book.
Vince Vawter, a native of Memphis, retired after a 40-year career in newspapers, most recently as the president and publisher of the Evansville Courier & Press in Indiana. He lives with his wife in Louisville, TN, on a small farm in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. Paperboy is his debut novel. Visit Vince Vawter’s website.
Resources: Visit the Stuttering Foundation of America, The National Stuttering Association, and The Stuttering Home Page for information, stories written by kids who stutter, free resources, support groups, and summer camps. There are 3 million Americans who stutter, 68 million people worldwide. It affects males four times more than females. You will be surprised at the long list of famous people and celebrities who stuttered as children and teens.