A Walk in the Words

Penguin/Nancy Paulsen. Sept. 2021. 32p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780399548710.
Gr 1-3–With a directness similar to Jordan Scott’s I Talk Like a River, this story addresses the stigma surrounding dyslexia. While drawing is like breathing for the boy, he knows he is the slowest reader in his class. He is completely isolated by his fear of being found out until he realizes that he can make sense of what he’s reading if he takes his time and uses familiar words like stepping stones. His curiosity to know how a story turns out powers him forward with reading while he discovers that writing words can bring his drawings to life. It helps to know that Einstein, Leonardo, and Picasso, among others in his Slow Readers Hall of Fame, shared the same challenge. Talbott speaks from personal experience, as an author’s note explains, and does a brilliant job of illuminating the feeling of dyslexia through his watercolor and colored pencil illustrations. He shows us how turning a word into a picture helps with memory. Readers see a page with a few legible words in a sea of squiggles and a double-page spread mostly covered in encyclopedia clippings with an overwhelmed little face peering over the top.
VERDICT Leavened with humor, charm, and a child’s self-empowerment, this is an important book both for struggling readers and for classmates who need to cultivate a dose of empathy.

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