Middle Grade Novels About Stuttering: Roundup and Review
October 26, 2023
As children get older, reading chapter books and novels can help them explore new ideas and other perspectives. The books featured below are engaging stories that can make different possibilities come to life - as well as showing kids they’re not alone.
Jayson Goes for It!
By Brayden Harrington and David Ritz
This book, a collaboration between teen Brayden Harrington and writer-for-the-star David Ritz (both of whom stutter), is both a great story and a sensitive look at some of the tough choices kids make around speech therapy. The protagonist, Jayson, decides to run for president against a bully in his class, because he believes it’s important - more important than his stuttering worries. Woven through that story of courage is a secondary story that many stutterers will recognize: his speech therapist is over-focused on fluency, and Jayson finds the therapy demoralizing and unhelpful. Over the course of the book Jayson learns to be an advocate for himself, as well as for other kids at school who are struggling. If that seems like a lot to pack into one book, don’t worry - the writing is un-preachy and welcoming, and the story keeps the pages turning.
By Vince Vawter
This coming of age story set in Tennessee in 1959 weaves together stuttering, the historical South, and a little bit of danger. When Victor takes over his friend’s newspaper route, he finds a surprising friend in one of the adults on his route, who doesn’t seem to mind his stutter. The danger comes in when the neighborhood junkman steals Victor’s knife, and his quest to retrieve it lands him in some difficult situations. Vawter’s depiction of the struggles of stuttering - both physical and emotional - are spot on, based on the author’s own experience.
Say It Out Loud
By Allison Varnes
In Say It Out Loud, a student named Charlotte wants to speak up when she witnesses bullying on the school bus - but fears becoming a target herself due to her stutter. Author Allison Varnes told us that she started out to write a simple story about bullying, but became more and more strongly called to draw on her own experiences as a person who stutters to create her character. The result is a fast-moving tale about the importance of speaking out. It also weaves in Charlotte’s love of musical theater and her growing determination to shine on stage, stutter and all.
By C.C. Harrington
Wildoak is a historical novel about a nature-loving girl who stutters in 1963 England. When Maggie is sent to the country to live with her uncle, she finds an injured snow leopard in a nearby woods that is threatened by developers. Maggie’s fight to save the leopard, and the woods, forms the backbone of this story that will appeal especially to kids who love animals. It also provides an opportunity for discussing some of the ways stuttering was treated historically, as Maggie’s family threatens to send her to a “special school” where neglect and punishment await kids with differences.
Tips for Magicians
By Celesta Rimington
One of our young reader clients shared this recommendation with us, and we are passing it on to you! The main character does not stutter, but his close friend does and is portrayed as a great person who really just wants people to let him talk. The story itself is about a boy named Harrison who is grieving his mother’s death during a long stay with his aunt in an eccentric artists’ village in the desert. The residents believe their town used to be inspired by a magical muse, who seems to have disappeared. The resulting tale weaves a realistic story of coming of age and grief with just a hint of magic. And the stuttering representation is great!
For picture book suggestions, check out our roundup here!