In this touching autobiographical picture book, a young boy discovers that enthusiasm can trump his speech impediment.
First-grader Jimmy interchanges some of his consonants, so that he doesn’t say his “worbs wight.” Opening with a letter from the author describing his experiences with bullying as a child, this charming tale centers on how he learns to overcome his fear of speaking around his peers. Both his mother and his teacher, Mrs. Lyons, are sympathetic, and they do their best to help Jimmy cope. When Mrs. Lyons tells the students they’ll be performing in a play, Jimmy is horrified; the other kids are sure he won’t be able to manage his lines. Eventually, Mrs. Lyons convinces Jimmy, the earnest young hero, that if he can say his lines with “verve,” his pronunciation won’t get in the way of delivering the message. Once he realizes how delivery can impact how words are heard, he finds the courage to stand on stage and say his lines—and finds himself accepted by his classmates. Doti (A Christmas Adventure in Little Italy, 2010) also includes a recipe for meat pies, as cooked by Jimmy’s nonna. Though the text is lengthy for a first-grade picture book, and there’s a distracting shift from present to past tense as Mrs. Lyons shares the story behind the play, the illustrations by Mertins are wholly appealing. Their soft, watercolor tones capture both Jimmy’s fears and his eventual triumph. In a comforting color palette, Doti’s childhood school is happily depicted as populated by a variety of ethnicities, despite the 1950s era implied by the children’s clothing. Notwithstanding the presence of school bullies, there’s little here that will make readers feel threatened. Although the story doesn’t deal with Jimmy overcoming the teasing, his discovery of self-confidence is a valuable lesson on its own and one that young readers will appreciate. Parents may find this book useful for discussing issues of shyness or speech problems with their own children.
A charming story with delightful pictures ideal for reading together.