Giving Voice to the Voiceless

22 Jan

About 10 years ago I had a self-selected mute in the 4th grade class I was teaching. Let’s call her J.  She had an honest to goodness diagnosis, this wasn’t just something we in the educational establishment had labelled her with. J had experienced a trauma recently in her life and mutism was her way of dealing with it. She was a really great kid and we hit it off. That was the year the 4th grade started writing interactive reading journals. The kids had to write me a weekly letter about what they were reading and I would write them back. They turned their journal in on Monday and I had til Friday to write my 20+ letters back. . Of course the kids write about more than just what they were reading, but it gave us a chance to “talk”.  Each Friday, I would sit with each kid and read my letter to them. It gave me a chance to have uninterrupted time with each student at lest once a week. J was able to use her journal to give herself a voice. That;s how she and I were able to connect, and get to know each other.

But what if you can’t write, either because you are too young or never learned?  All the Truth That’s in Me by Julie Berry examines this idea.


Like Charm and Strange, the story unfolds in fragments. Slowly we get pieces of where Judith lives, what happened to her and her friend Lottie, and how she lives now. It is not pretty. Judith disappeared for two years and her tongue was cut out while she was gone. When she returns her Mother lets her into the house, but doesn’t really accept her back. Judith cannot talk and is marginalized, if not outright ostracized. But, circumstances change. Having received little schooling when young,  Judith was unable to read or write. She finds the courage within her to go to school. A renewed friendship gives her the chance to learn to talk again, even if she does so imperfectly. And Judith finally has a chance to speak truth to power.

I had checked this book out from the library earlier this year and returned it unread. The jacket description is good, but it doesn’t really convey the power of the story. I’m glad I gave it a second chance.

A 2014 Edgar Award nominee for YA.

A Kids’ Indie Next List Top Ten Pick — #5, Best Books of Winter ’13-’14.

A School Library Journal Best Book of 2013 and 2014 “Battle of the Books” contender.

A Kirkus Reviews Best Teen Book for 2013.

A Horn Book Fanfare 2013 title.

Nominated for the Carnegie Medal and a YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults award. 


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