Paperboy by Vince Vawter

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.

A Boy and a Jaguar – Stuttering

A Boy and Jaguar9780547875071_p0_v1_s260x420A Boy and a Jaguar

Alan Rabinowitz, Author

Catia Chien, Illustrator

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Biography, May 6, 2014

Winner: 2015 Schneider Family Book Award

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Stuttering, Wildlife conservationist, Endangered animals

Opening: I’m standing in the great cat house at the Bronx Zoo.  Why is this jaguar kept in a bare room? I wonder. I lean toward my favorite animal and whisper to her. “What are you doing?” My father asks. I try to explain, but my mouth freezes, just as I knew it would. I am a stutterer…

Book Jacket Synopsis: Alan loves animals, but the great cat house at the Bronx Zoo makes him sad.  Why are they all alone in bare cages? More than anything, he wants to be their champion –their voice — but he stutters uncontrollably. Except when he talks to animals…Then he is fluent. Follow the life of the man Time magazine calls “The Indiana Jones of wildlife conservation” as he searches for his voice and fulfils a promise to speak for animals, and people who cannot speak for themselves.

Why I like this book: This is one of the  few books I’ve found for children who stutter. Alan Rabinowitz’ uplifting story focuses on courage, ability, healing, finding one’s voice and making a difference in the world. This is a very important message for children who stutter. The book is based on the true story of the author, who stuttered as a child. The narrative is in first person, which works very well as Alan deals with being put in a “disturbed class” and feels “broken.” He gets through school by using tricks that stutterers use. It is Alan’s remarkable relationship with animals who listen and understand him, that saves him. He talks to his animal friends at the zoo and his pets at home, without stuttering. He becomes passionate about the condition of zoo animals and makes a promise to be their voice one day. Rabinowitz finds his voice as he follows his passion to become a wildlife conservationist and saves big cats. It is important for children to see themselves in role models like Rabinowitz. Catia Chien’s breathtaking illustrations are lush and really evoke the emotion and loneliness felt by Alan. At the end of the book is a Q&A with the author about stuttering, bullying and his work with animals. Visit Rabinowitz’ website.

Resources: I encourage you to visit the Stuttering Foundation for information, free resources, support groups, summer camps and a section that is devoted to kids sharing their stories about how stuttering has affected them — fabulous website. 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. National Stuttering Awareness Week is May 11-17, 2015.