Scholar who Stutters Writes Young Adult Novel

Lisa Wilder
tess with book

Tess Casher is a young Canadian Rhodes Scholar who moved to England last year to attend Oxford University. A person who stutters, she has written a Young Adult book about a teen girl who also stutters. The novel, Sleuths in Skates, is a delightful and highly readable book suitable for ages 8-16. The protagonist, Ingrid Nielsen, is a fourteen year old girl whose family has moved from B.C. to a small Ontario town. Moving to a new school can be scary for any teen, but with a stutter, it's an extra challenge.  

Ingrid has a plan to make the adjustment easier. As a talented figure skater, she joins the school's skating club to meet people and make the effort to fit in to her new surroundings.  Her first encounters in her neighbourhood (her next-door-neighbour is a boy her age) and with the other girls in her class depict all the anxiety of trying to break into a new peer group that young people experience.  While her relationship with her parents is good, she still feels her mom, always trying to get her into speech therapy, is "a  little too enthusiastic about the prospect of fixing me."  When an excited Ingrid happily tells of a perfect jump she did in skating practice, she is devastated when her mother only tries to correct her speech instead of listening. 

The story takes a mysterious turn when an extreme act of vandalism at the rink threatens her figure skating group with cancelation. Ingrid and one of her fellow skaters try to expose the culprits, an investigation that turns out to involve the boys hockey team. Casher has a gift for language and plot that keeps the story moving and readers engaged.

Casher doesn't shy away from depicting Ingrid's stuttering and its effect on her, as well as people's reactions, adults and other kids alike. Speech therapy, a constant in her life, can be a frustrating and confusing exercise. Sleuths in Skates is an insightful and entertaining story that accurately depicts the trials of being a young person who stutters. Keeping things inside, not answering questions when she knows the answer, fearful of speaking out but not wanting exclusion, stuttering elicits strong and often contradictory emotions that Casher reflects well in the character of Ingrid. Sleuths in Skates is certainly a worthwhile book for young people to read whether they stutter or not!

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