Monday, January 24, 2022

MMGM- The Way I Say It

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday
and #IMWAYR day 

Tandon, Nancy. The Way I Say It
January 1st 2022 by Charlesbridge Publishing
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Rory is starting middle school, and dreading having to introduce himself because of his speech impediment. Despite being in speech therapy for years, he still pronounces his "r" like a "w". Some kids, especially Danny, make fun of him for it, but most of his fellow students don't give him a hard time. Jenna, especially, is always kind, and Rory kind of has a crush on her. The biggest problem is Brent, who used to be his friend until an unexplained rift opened between the two. Brent now hangs out with Danny, and constantly picks on his former best friend. Rory's mom makes Rory hang out with Brent and two other boys who were in preschool with him. Brent won't let up even in this situation, and leaves the gathering to ride bikes with his new friends. Unfortunately, he is hit by a car, and because he wasn't wearing a helmet, is gravely injured and put into a medically induced coma. He survives, but has a traumatic brain injury that leaves him with headaches, behavioral issues, and some anger management challenges. Rory has enjoyed working with the new speech teacher in the middle school, Mr. Simms, whose approach is quite different from the elementary speech teacher's, and he's been making progress. He's not happy when he finds that Brent will not only be working with Mr. Simms, but also that the two of them are working on a year long biography project together. Mr. Simms has suggested Muhammad Ali, who faced many challenges as well. Rory's mother is constantly having him visit Brent to help him recuperate, and Rory is not happy with this. We aren't told what the boys' fight was about, but it looms large. We also don't find out why Danny is so insistent on bugging Rory, and Rory unfortunately pokes back at Danny by making fun of the job his mother has as a cleaner at the hospital. As the year progresses, Rory makes progress on his speech, Brent recovers slowly from his injury, and the two are able to restore their friendship a bit. 
Strengths: There have been a few books recently about speech issues, and this is good to see. It breaks my heart to see students get all the way to middle school with unresolved speech issues, since I worked very hard with one of my own children on the exact issue Rory faced; luckily this was resolved by about third grade. The details of therapy and speech exercises were just enough. I loved the supportive parents, the reasonable teachers and librarian, and the effective Mr. Simms, who connected with Rory about guitar playing and heavy metal music. The idea of children being friends because their parents are needs to be explored a LOT more in middle grade fiction! Jenna was a fantastic character, and it was very realistic that both she and Rory claimed to be "just friends" while both of them felt a little more. The cards and small gifts exchanges are so painfully true to life! The relationship with Brent, and Rory's reaction to the accident are troubling, but also understandable. I don't think Rory was heartless in his reaction; the reaction is tempered because there are so many competing emotions that sometimes eleven year olds aren't quite sure how to react. In general, this was a well paced book with several interesting problems that will appeal to many readers. 
Weaknesses: I've read a few middle grade books, and far too many of them start at the beginning of the school year and work to the end and have bullies. Young readers won't be tired of these tropes, but I'm especially tired of bullies. This book would have been stronger without the tension with Danny, and if Brent and Rory had been cooly civil to each other. 
What I really think: Definitely purchasing and will also recommend to our school speech and language pathologist along with Lupica's Batting Order, Frazier's Mighty Inside, Rutter's The Boy Who Made Everyone Laugh, Baptist's The Swag is in the Socks, and Naylor's Going Where It's Dark


  1. This one is on my reading list - and I do indeed hear what you're saying about bullies and acting civilly.

  2. It's not a middle grade story unless the plot has a bully and a dead parent :). I enjoyed this one regardless and am awaiting feedback from the intended young reader audience. Thanks for featuring on MMGM. Excellent review!

  3. This sounds like an excellent read! I feel like there's been a lot of speech-impediment representation recently, and it's great to see that being more normalized and talked about. And this one sounds like a really nuanced story! Also, I'm definitely tired of bullies in stories—but I'm tired of them in real life! Why is that a normal part of our education system? (I'm not blaming the teachers who are underpaid and overworked as is, but politicians—hello, why not reform things? Oh yeah, because they're apparently useless when it counts.) (Sorry for the rant!) Thanks so much for the wonderful review, Karen!

  4. Gosh, this really sounds like a terrific book. I'm putting it on my staggering TBR list. Thanks for the review.

  5. Stuttering has always been one of the most researched topics on my website the past 11 years. There are so few books (The Paper Boy) for kids and I always wondered why. I know the Stuttering Foundation newsletters has pages devoted to stories kids write about themselves and wondered if that played into the lack of books. This is a book I do want to read and review. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I always love your reviews and insights.

  6. This sounds wonderful, despite the trope of bullies. I am going to look for it.. When Reading-To changes to Reading-With