December 17, 2020


For my last review of 2020, I would be completely remiss if I didn't share I Talk Like a River by Jordan Scott and Sydney Smith. 

Poet Jordan Scott reflects on his childhood stutter and how a conversation with his father helped him find his voice. After a particularly tough day at school, his dad picks him up and takes him to the river so they can walk along the shore and be surrounded by the quiet of nature. He points to the river and lovingly tells his son that he talks just like the river: "bubbling, churning, whirling, and crashing." But also like a river, he has his smooth moments, too, and Scott internalizes this message to help himself speak during a presentation the next day. There's a wonderful author's note at the end where Scott goes into more detail about the significance of connecting nature's movements to his own.

As always, Sydney Smith's illustrations are exquisite and teaming with energy. Through watercolors, inks, and gouache, Smith proves himself to be a master at balancing fine details with the vastness of nature. I'm also certain that no one has ever painted shimmering water so spectacularly (SPOILER: there's a surprise gatefold toward the end that will have your jaw on the floor!), and in alternating full-bleeds with paneled spreads Smith keeps the energy flowing forward through the illustrations, much like a river itself.

I Talk Like a River published earlier this year from Neal Porter Books. You can also read an interview I did a few years ago with Sydney about his illustration process here.

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