The Way I Say It
Nancy Tandon, Author
Charlesbridge, Fiction, Jan. 18, 2022
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.
*Reviewed from a library copy.