Tag Archives: stuttering

A Boy and a Jaguar

6 Jun

I first heard Alan Rabinowitz tell his story in a radio broadcast of   The Moth. Rabinowitz tells how, as a young boy with a profound stutter, he made a vow to a jaguar in the Bronx zoo. Later, as an adult he was able to work with jaguars in Belize and fulfill his promise.

A new picture book tells Rabinowitz’s story for a younger audience. Written by Rabinowitz and beautifully illustrated by Catia Chen.


The story is a personal narrative and would be an excellent way to introduce students of all ages to writing their own personal narrative. It gives us a glimpse into the inner life of a child who feels broken but wants to be “fixed”. It is only with animals that he is able to speak without stuttering. As an adult he still felt the connection to the animal world and turned his weakness into a strength, becoming a jaguar researcher and advocate for endangered animals.

If you would like to hear Rabinowitz tell the story in his own voice, you can listen to it at:


Facing challenges

3 Sep

Scan 3

I started kindergarten in the Fall of 1969. I was 4 and wouldn’t turn 5 until December. I remember being excited but around me people were worried. I was very shy and, apparently, the plan was to let me start and see how things went. If they went well, I’d stay. If they went poorly, I would get another year at home to mature.

Fortunately, I loved Miss Belyea, my teacher, and I loved school. I might have been emotionally immature, but I was ready to learn, so, I got to stay.  School was sort of my comfort zone. I felt confident in the structure, surrounded by people I knew and the work came to me easily. I still have my kindergarten report card and I get a little teary when I read Miss Belyea’s  end of the year comments:

” Adrienne has developed from a very quiet, insecure child to the most perfect little student…..I have enjoyed watching Adrienne blossom into a lovely little rose.”


For Vince, the main character in Paperboy by Vince Vawter, things aren’t quite as easy because he stutters.


Eleven year old Vince is an excellent pitcher and has a close friend he calls Rat. When Rat goes away for the summer, he asks Vince to take over his paper route. Vince agrees, but reluctantly. He was OK with delivering the paper, it was the collection, where he’d have to talk to customers, that worried him. As the summer passes, Vince faces this challenge, along with others, and, like I did with Miss Belyea, blossoms.

The story is set in Memphis in 1959. Although it is not a story about civil rights, themes appear, as Vince contemplates the world around him as an 11 year old might. Not really understanding the adult world, but wanting to, even when it is ugly.

This is a quiet novel that is well worth the read. It might also be a Newbery contender.

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