The joy of pre-ordering a book is that sometimes your much anticipated copy comes early. Thankfully, this was the case with Wanda's Words Got Stuck, a picture book we have been excited about for the following reasons:
1) We love witchy stories! Although there out there, witches in picture books is not something we have recently seen a lot of and we've missed them.
2) This is a story about a child who has difficulties with speech and communication, something which is close to our hearts as my autistic daughter developed speech late, struggles to speak clearly enough to be understood and who some days doesn't want to speak at all, choosing instead to communicate her feelings in a rainbow of different ways.
3) As a primary teacher, I have encountered many children with speech and language difficulties, or who suffer with shyness, who desperately need to see themselves represented on the printed page.
Wanda can't get her words out! Despite her determination, they just won't come. But when a shy new witch starts at her school, Wanda finds alternative ways to communicate. Soon, the pair are inseparable and preparing for the school's spell magic contest but Wanda is terrified. When her friend, Flo, ends up in danger, can Wanda find the words to save her?
Written by Lucy Rowland, a speech and language therapist, this story is as enchanting as the cover, superbly illustrated by Paula Bowles. Wanda is adorable but her anxiety is clear from her expressions and children will be able to relate to her desire to avoid noisy, social situations. Only when Wanda meets a kindred spirit and forges a firm new friendship which doesn't need words does she begin to grow in confidence.
The magic contest inspires the same dread in Wanda that a school performance or social gathering can inspire in a child who has worries about communicating. However, it is the magical element that lifts this story into delightful and nail-biting fantasy, allowing readers to forget their own reality by being swept up in potions and dragons, but empowering them to tackle those tricky situations when they return to it. The power of friendship allows Wanda to find the strength to speak out but I love that even following her big moment, there is still an acknowledgement that it is an ongoing struggle and that sometimes words just aren't needed.
Looking at the world through Wanda's eyes won't just help children like Wanda. Sharing these kinds of stories will hopefully help little ones to develop empathy and awareness of others and also to forge strong and positive friendships. Wanda's words certainly haven't got stuck on the page! Her story is written, so dive into the words and enjoy sharing her empowering adventure.
Wanda's Words Got Stuck is released this Thursday, 3rd September 2020 and is available for pre-order.