Susie Will Not Speak by Shruthi Rao

Illustrations: Lavanya Naidu

Duckbill Publications

Age: 6+

Most challenges carry solutions in clear communication. But, what if the source of your problem itself is your medium of communication?

Susie, a lovely little girl finds her world shutting down around her when she decides to stop speaking because of a speech impediment. But Susie has a wonderful friend, Jahan, who encourages her to speak again and overcome her inhibitions.

Jahan, an accident-prone boy with thirty-seven stitches, has recently moved to a new house with his family. Our of boredom, he finds himself next to a girl who is peeking over the wall of the house next to his. He introduces himself to her while reassuring her that he already knows her name. “Toots” he calls her, as Mukund had told him to. The girl gets angry and stomps away. Just then Jahan’s mother comes in and tells him that her name is Susie. Jahan is confused about her name but realises that he needs to apologise to her.

Jahan goes to her house along with his pet dog, Splash. Susie pets Splash and Jahan apologises for getting confused about her name. He now knows that her name is Susie. Susie forgives him and says, “Ith okay. If you didn’t know that my name ith actually Tuthie, ith okay.” That’s when Jahan realises that Susie speaks with a lisp and that’s why her name sounds Tuthie, short for ‘Toots’.

Jahan and Susie become very good friends, spending a lot of time together. Jahan notices that Susie is bullied a lot by the other children for her speech impediment. He comes to know of the silly songs imitating her words. One day,  the children get invited for Diya’s birthday party and Jahan is all excited to go. But Susie does not want to go because Diya’s father imitates her. Jahan convinces her that they will only visit only for a short while and come back. Sure enough, Diya’s father teases Susie for her speech when they get there, and Susie gives it back to him- somewhat rudely, resulting in her parents punishing her with a timeout.

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Susie’s parents finally see a speech therapist for her lisp. Susie does not take her sessions with the therapists seriously and neglects her practise sessions. It results in situations where Susie is unable to communicate with her parents at all because they won’t let her finish her sentences until she corrects herself. A class presentation has her fretting over how she will finish her presentation when she can’t even get to say the topic correctly. Frustrated by the failures to express herself, Susie decides to stop speaking entirely. She decides to only communicate by writing and carries a pencil and a notepad everywhere she goes.

Also Read: Book Review: Maya in a Mess by Meera Nair

For the next four days, Susie only communicates through writing. Her parents pretend as if they do not understand what she says, in a bid to get her to speak again. This little game of “show and tell” results in a minor accident and Susie ends up breaking her left arm. That’s when Jahan decides to do something to get Susie to speak again.

The latter part of the book reveals the brilliant plan that Jahan comes up with to convince Susie to speak again, regain faith in her therapist and finish her science presentation too!

My Musings

The book reveals the funny part of challenges and problems – the more you break them up, the less intimidating they seem. The story is not only a beautiful journey of vulnerability, resilience and courage, it is also an ode to friendships and brings out the importance of being part of the support circle for friends, and not the other way around.

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