"An unforgettable boy and his unforgettable story. I loved it!" —ROB BUYEA, author of Because of Mr. Terupt and Mr. Terupt Falls Again
This Newbery Honor winner is perfect for fans of To Kill a Mockingbird, The King’s Speech, and The Help. A boy who stutters comes of age in the segregated South, during the summer that changes his life.
Little Man throws the meanest fastball in town. But talking is a whole different ball game. He can barely say a word without stuttering—not even his own name. So when he takes over his best friend’s paper route for the month of July, he’s not exactly looking forward to interacting with the customers. But it’s the neighborhood junkman, a bully and thief, who stirs up real trouble in Little Man’s life.
A Newbery Honor Award Winner
An ALA-ALSC Notable Children’s Book
An IRA Children’s and Young Adults’ Choice
An IRA Teachers’ Choice
A Bank Street College of Education Best Book of the Year
A National Parenting Publications Award Honor Book
A BookPage Best Children’s Book
An ABC New Voices Pick
A Junior Library Guild Selection
An ALA-ALSC Notable Children’s Recording
An ALA-YALSA Amazing Audiobook
A Mississippi Magnolia State Award List Selection
“[Vawter’s] characterization of Little Man feels deeply authentic, with . . . his fierce desire to be ‘somebody instead of just a kid who couldn’t talk right.’” —The Washington Post
“Paperboy offers a penetrating look at both the mystery and the daily frustrations of stuttering. People of all ages will appreciate this positive and universal story.” —Jane Fraser, president of the Stuttering Foundation of America
*“[A] tense, memorable story.” —Publishers Weekly, Starred
“An engaging and heartfelt presentation that never whitewashes the difficult time and situation as Little Man comes of age.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Vawter portrays a protagonist so true to a disability that one cannot help but empathize with the difficult world of a stutterer.” —School Library Journal
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
I’m typing about the stabbing for a good reason. I can’t talk.
Plus I promised Mam I would never tell what happened to my yellow-handle knife. Mam might say that typing is cheating but I need to see the words on paper to make sure everything happened the way my brain remembers it. I trust words on paper a lot more than words in the air.
The funny way I talk is not so much like fat pigs in cartoons as I just get stuck on a sound and try to push the word out. Sometimes it comes out after a little pushing but other times I turn red in the face and lose my breath and get dizzy circles going around in my head. There’s not much I can do about it except think of another word or keep on pushing.
The lady my parents hired to show me how to talk is teaching me to use a trick she calls Gentle Air which means letting out a little of my breath before getting stuck on a word. So when I feel like I’m going to have trouble saying a word I try to sneak up on it by making a hissing noise.
When you’re eleven years old it’s better to be called a snake than a retard.
Some days if I’ve gotten stuck on a bunch of words at school I’ll come home and put a piece of notebook paper in the typewriter that someone from my father’s office brought to our house a long time ago and forgot to take back. The same one I’m typing these words on now. I peck out the words that gave me the most trouble for the day. My hands know where the letters are and I don’t have to think up different tricks to help me push out a word.
I like the sound the typewriter key makes when it smacks the black ribbon because it’s always the same. I never know what kinds of sounds are going to come out of my mouth. If anything happens to come out at all.
Just so you know. I hate commas. I leave them out of my typing any time I think I can get away with it. My composition teacher said a comma meant it was time for a pause. I pause all the time when I’m trying to talk whether I want to or not. Humongous pauses. I would rather type a gazillion ands than one little comma.
I type so much in my room that the white letters are wearing off the typewriter keys. But the key with the comma on it looks brand-new and it can stay that way if you ask me.
Mam came to Memphis from Mississippi when I was five to live with us and help take care of me and one thing’s for sure. I wouldn’t have made it this far without her.
Mam’s real name is Miss Nellie Avent. My mother told me to call her Miss Nellie but that didn’t work for me because of the n sound coming after the m sound. Mam was as close as I could come to saying her name and she allowed as how that suited her fine.
She said that we made a good pair because she couldn’t write very well and I had the best handwriting she had ever seen for a little man. That’s what she called me from the first day that she came to live with us. Little Man.
Mam is my best friend in all the world except when it comes to playing ball and then Rat takes over. His real name is Art.
He had it written in easy-to-read letters on his catcher’s mitt on the first day of third grade but I had to nickname him Rat because the a sound wasn’t going to come out of my mouth that day without giving me a bunch of trouble. He allowed as how Rat was okay with him and that made me like him from the start. He didn’t even look like a rat but he understood quicker than most kids that Rat was the best I could do on his name because of the easy r sound. Mam calls him Mr. Rat which always cracks me up.
My stuttering probably makes me the best nicknamer in Memphis.
One of my hard baseball throws busted Rat in the mouth on the last day of sixth grade. That’s the reason I told him I would handle his paper route for July so he could visit his grandparents on their farm outside Memphis. I didn’t much want to take on the route but I thought I owed it to Rat for busting his lip. Rat says I show off too much with my hard throws and I guess he’s right and I needed to pay for it.
The paper route was where I met all the new people in my life and where all the bad stuff happened. And some good stuff too. At least I think it was good. I’m still trying to figure all of it out and I’m hoping that putting the words on paper will help.