5th Grade and Up
Maggie Stephens’s stutter makes school especially hard. She will do almost anything to avoid speaking in class or calling attention to herself. So when her unsympathetic father threatens to send her away for so-called “treatment,” she reluctantly agrees to her mother’s intervention plan: a few weeks in the fresh air of Wildoak Forest, visiting a grandfather she hardly knows. In an extraordinary twist of fate, she encounters an abandoned snow leopard cub, Rumpus, an exotic gift to a wealthy Londoner that proved too wild to domesticate. But once others discover the cub’s presence, danger follows, and Maggie soon realizes that time is running out, not only for the leopard but for herself and the forest as well.
The author does a fantastic job writing a realistic depiction of a child who stutters and the mind of a half-tamed snow leopard. The chapters alternate between Maggie and Rumpus’s perspectives.
The main thing that drew me to this book was that Maggie has a stutter. I’ve only read two other books about stuttering, but this one is definitely the best. Maggie is a perfect representation for kids who stutter and for others to learn what it’s like to live with a stutter. The way Maggie’s stuttering is described is distressing, how the air gets caught in her throat, and her head jerks around. If I were talking to someone struggling to breathe and jerking around, I’d be afraid they were having a seizure.
Keep in mind that this story takes place in 1963 London, so treatment for people who stutter would not have been as helpful as the treatments we have today.
Here are a few helpful tips on speaking to someone who stutters:
- avoid finishing their sentences if they’re struggling to get their words out
- be patient
- don’t laugh at their struggle (this one should be obvious)
- basically, listen to the person the same way you would anyone else
I found it fascinating how Maggie stuttered when talking to humans but not animals. I think it has something to do with being more comfortable around animals than with people. Animals don’t judge or interrupt.
The friendship between Maggie and Rumpus is super sweet. I love how Rumpus rubbed up against her and played with her. As a bonus, here’s a picture of a snow leopard. Such a beautiful creature.
I was shocked to learn that Harrods, a famous London department store, used to sell “exotic” pets such as baby elephants, jaguars, leopards, and alligators. The chapter that took place in the store disgusted me. It makes me sick that people bought these exotic animals to keep them as pets. They didn’t care about the animal’s well-being. They just wanted to brag about owning an exotic animal. What really makes me sick is that when these people realize that a wild animal does not make a suitable pet, they release them into the wild to fend for themselves. The animals either die or, in the case of Burmese pythons in Florida, breed and populate in the 100,000s (Burmese pythons have nothing to do with this story, I’m just making a point). Bottomline: DO NOT KEEP A WILD ANIMAL AS A PET! It’s stupid and inhuman!
Read the Author’s Note to learn more about reforestation efforts, Harrods department store, and stuttering.
If you want to learn more about stuttering, here are a few YouTube videos I found on the subject:
What is it like to stutter?: American Institute for Stuttering: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3dxOtdFgJE8
How Do People Develop a Stutter?: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_5IOse0EdIo
Stuttering – For Kids, By Kids: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Po-WMo8vXRY
There is no cure for stuttering. Stuttering, like many things, is a life-long struggle, but with the right treatment and support, it can become manageable.