All He Knew by Helen Frost

4.5 stars Historical Fiction

I started to get all frustrated and concerned as I began reading this book.  I felt so helpless as I read about Henry.  He had begun his life alone and misunderstood.  The label they slapped on him, became a wall.  I felt some relief that Molly had never forgotten her brother, although he wasn’t living with her.  She loved him whether he was physically present or not.  The author’s creative way of expressing this factual event makes this a very powerful story. 

Henry was four when he becomes deaf after falling ill. They had hoped that Henry could get his education at the State School for the Deaf.  Needing to pass a test, Henry arrives for the test but he is unable to understand the tests’ directions.  Failing the test, he can’t attend the state school and they label Henry, “unteachable.”  With WWII on the horizon, they soon decide to place him in Riverview, a school for mentally disabled individuals.  Talk about sad! Little time and effort are spent on the patients and Henry sinks further down.  If I could just reach into this book and grab him out, I and I think plenty other readers would have.

As I read Henry’s thoughts, his hopes and his sadness, it’s beyond sad.  I’m wondering how the other patients feel about life in Riverview.  Molly is the only bright spot until I hear Victor’s footsteps mark the halls of Riverview.  Is Victor a real person or is he an angel? Where did he come from?  It’s sad to think that, finally one professional, seems to care.   

With short chapters, this true event story is a story that will definitely make your think.  Told through verse, it’s a fast read about this time period in history.  

I Talk Like a River by Jordan Scott

4 stars Children’s Picture Books

The author wrote this book based on his own personal experience with stuttering.  I liked the honesty and the emotions that the author shared in this book.  As I read the author’s note at the back of the book, he explains in-depth, his own personal experience which made this book more enjoyable.  

It’s not like he doesn’t know what to say, he has the words, they’re just stuck inside his head.  Sitting inside his classroom, he’d rather participate quietly but when his teacher calls on him, every head in the room turns and looks at him, just waiting to see what he’ll say.  He’s been in this spotlight before and no one understands.  This isn’t the place he wants to be.  A phone call later, his dad picks him up and the situation has been diverted for now.

Wow, this is so sad.  This really frustrated me on many levels.  I was glad that his father was there for him and that he cared a great deal for him. I’m glad that he was able to gather strength from the words from his father and from the river.

I think many children will enjoy this book as they relate to this story and/or gain strength/knowledge from his example.   4 stars