The Way I Say It by Nancy Tandon

The Way I Say It

Nancy Tandon, Author

Charlesbridge, Fiction, Jan. 18, 2022

Pages: 240

Suitable for ages: 10-12

Themes: Speech impediment, Brain Injury, Best friends, Bullying, Emotions, Courage 

Opening: “I can’t say my name. Not because it’s a secret or anything. Honestly I’d shout it into a microphone right now if I could. I’d give up anything to be able to do that.”

Book Jacket Synopsis:

Sixth-grader Rory still can’t his r’s. He’s always gone to speech therapy at his elementary school, and now he has to continue in middle school. But that’s just the beginning of his troubles.

Rory’s former best friend, Brent, now hangs out with the mean wrestling-team kids, who make fun of Rory. And Rory’s mom doesn’t understand why he and Brent aren’t friends anymore.

Still, Rory and his other friends are finding their way in middle school, and Rory and his new speech teacher, Mr. Simms, discover that they share a love of hard rock and boxing legend Muhammad Ali. Things are looking up.

But then Brent is in a terrible accident and suffers a brain injury. After winter break, Brent returns. He’s not the same and everything is difficult for him.  Rory is challenged to stand up for his old friend — even though Brent never did that for him.

Why I like The Way I Say It:

I am thrilled that Nancy Tandon has written an inspiring book for children who deal with a variety of speech impediments. It’s a real life issue and they need to see themselves in uplifting and hopeful stories. Books on speech impediments and stuttering are the most searched topic on my website. There are many children who have difficulty with speech. Yet, there are so few books for kids dealing with such a big issue in their young lives. Our daughter was hearing impaired and required speech therapy into middle school. 

The narrative is written in first person and gives the reader deep insight into Rory and his coping strategies, including how he chooses words without the letter “r” when he speaks. Readers will learn some interesting things about how important the positioning of tongue is in speech. Tandon gives the right amount of information about speech and exercises. I enjoyed Rory’s relationship with his quirky and unconventional speech therapist, Mr. Simms. They bond over their love of heavy metal music, guitars and a famous boxer, Muhammad Ali, who becomes a motivator for Rory as he moves forward in his growth. Every kid needs a Mr. Simms in their academic life.

A significant theme in the story is how relationships begin to change from elementary school to middle school, which many times results in betrayal and hurt. Rory is baffled when his best friend Brent turns on him in middle school, calls him a looser and hangs out with the mean kids. Their relationship becomes even more complicated when Brent suffers a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) — another topic rarely addressed and something I can relate to — at the beginning of the school year. Rory’s lack of empathy may seem a bit troubling, but he is working through a lot of anger and hurt. Brent returns to school in the New Year and they end up together in speech therapy with Mr. Simms and as partners on a class project. Rory really faces some personal challenges which require a lot of courage and patience. Tandon did her homework on brain injuries and nailed the unpredictable side effects, which I think are important for readers to understand.

The plot is interesting and has its moments of humor, with Rory’s friends sweet Jenna, Tyson and Jetta. There is plenty of tension to keep readers turning pages. Make sure you check out the interesting note about speech development at the end of the book. Thank you Nancy Tandon for writing this book!

Nancy Tandon is a former teacher, speech-language pathologist (SLP), and adjunct professor of phonetics and child language development. As an SLP, she worked with many clients who had difficulty pronouncing sounds specific to their names, as well as people recovering from brain injury. Nancy lives in Connecticut with her husband and two children. The Way I Say It is her first novel. Visit Nancy at her website

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Reviewed from a library copy.


About Patricia Tiltonhttps://childrensbooksheal.wordpress.comI want "Children's Books Heal" to be a resource for parents, grandparents, teachers and school counselors. My goal is to share books on a wide range of topics that have a healing impact on children who are facing challenges in their lives. If you are looking for good books on grief, autism, visual and hearing impairments, special needs, diversity, bullying, military families and social justice issues, you've come to the right place. I also share books that encourage art, imagination and creativity. I am always searching for those special gems to share with you. If you have a suggestion, please let me know.

25 thoughts on “The Way I Say It by Nancy Tandon

  1. What a powerful story. I agree with you that there are many children who will enjoy reading a book with characters just like them. Others will enjoy reading it too and hopefully develop some insight and empathy. We could all do with a little more of that. Thanks for sharing this review.


  2. It sounds a really good book, which handles these topics well. I felt so much for poor Rory not even being able to say his own name, and poor Brent! Really good to give kids (and adults!) some insight into these challenges, and hopefully become kinder and empathetic. Thanks for the review!


  3. I want to read Tandon’s debut after seeing this review! I will share the title with some SLP I know, too. Thank you for alerting us to this thematic novel for MG readers.


  4. This is one of my favorites this year so thanks for featuring it on MMGM. The characters and the heartfelt ending really made it a perfect story. I also like dthe speech therapist sharing his compassion for music and the life of Ali.


    • Glad you loved it too! Yes, it is one my favorites too — especially since I can share it with readers who are searching for books on stuttering and speech impediments. Also liked the transition to middle school!


  5. You’re right that there aren’t many books about kids with a speech impediment, and that it’s a common problem. This sounds like a fantastic book dealing with the issues these kids have to deal with and then the added conflict that Rory goes through when Brent suffers a TBI. I’m glad you shared about it this week.


  6. This book sounds excellent–great review. I’m glad for books like this where kids can see themselves or build empathy towards others.


  7. I love books that take on problems that so many children are experiencing. Another critical theme you mentioned was how children must navigate the challenges of going from elementary to middle school—not an easy transition for some.


  8. Wow! This would be an excellent addition to a classroom library. So important for all kinds of kids to see themselves in a book. You always manage to find such important stories!!


  9. This sounds very good. I agree, not much literature with kids dealing with speech and language issues. I was a speechtherapist for almost 40 years. The/r/ sounds was the hardest to remedy.


    • I was so happy to learn about your book. I made sure my library ordered a copy, so that’s why I’m late to the game reviewing it. I was thrilled to find an MG book on speech impediments and speech problems related to brain injuries. Again, thank you for writing this important book!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s