The Powerful Magic of Finding Your Voice
Wanda's Words Got Stuck by Lucy Rowland and Paula Bowles
A wonderful story about overcoming your fears and channelling the strength you hadn’t realised you possessed. Wanda is a little witch who has difficulty speaking. When she tries to talk, no words will come out, making her feel “nervous, so shy and so small.” Despite this, Wanda manages to make a good friend at school called Flo. Luckily, “there wasn’t too much that they needed to say.” When Flo is endangered by a creature she conjures, Wanda must face a dragon and battle an even fiercer monster – her own struggle with speech.
Wanda’s Words Got Stuck reassures children who experience social anxiety and speech difficulties, and demonstrates that there are many ways to communicate. Wanda and Flo can understand and relate to one another without Wanda needing to say anything. Sensing her unease when the magical competition is announced, Flo squeezes Wanda’s hand supportively under their desks.
Although Wanda uses a spell to defeat the dragon, the real magic ultimately comes from the power of friendship and from Wanda finding her own voice. Wanda’s confidence grows even more after she rescues Flo and we see her chatting during her lunchbreak at school. But the message that we can communicate without words is reinforced again on the final page. The story concludes as Wanda and Flo hug and we’re told that sometimes “she just doesn’t need words at all.”
Even though Wanda doesn’t speak, her emotions are clearly expressed through body language. By looking at Wanda’s face and actions, we can easily perceive when she is nervous, determined, worried, frightened, contemplative, happy or proud. One of the reasons we understand Wanda so well is because Paula Bowles’ artwork brings her to life and depicts her so brilliantly.
The combination of lively rhyming text and beautiful illustrations evokes an inviting and atmospheric magical realm. The billowing clouds generated by spells and permeating the book are gorgeous. I love the colour palette of autumnal shades and mystic greens and purples, the elaborate architecture and all the little amusing details that enrich Wanda’s world.
A bat emerges from a cuckoo clock instead of a bird. The see-saw in the playground is made of broomsticks. There’s a witch weathervane on top of the school and a park bench shaped like a spider’s web. Tall and twisted, turret-like drainpipes arise from buildings.
In the classroom, we see ingredients in jars such as dragon droppings, sun beams and unicorn kisses. Cauldrons bubble and splatter, peculiar creatures peer out of glass bowls and Wanda always has a spider dangling from her hat.
Author Lucy Rowland is a speech and language therapist with a passion for language and years of experience of working with young children. Lucy’s first picture book, Gecko’s Echo, was published in 2017 and I’ve counted a further fourteen since then including this one! Hopefully I haven’t left anything out of my calculations.
Lucy has collaborated with Wanda's Words Got Stuck illustrator Paula Bowles on another book called, Sammy Claws, all about Santa’s pet cat. You can get to know more about Lucy, including where she has written some of her books, in this interview with My Reading Corner.
Paula Bowles has worked as an illustrator for over ten years. She is also a keen cyclist, a lindy hop dancer, and has even walked a tightrope! Paula has illustrated several children’s books and you can see a list of them all here.
Paula was one of the artists involved in Gromit Unleashed. This was a 2013 public art trail that displayed 80 giant fibreglass sculptures of Gromit around Bristol to raise funds for the local children’s hospital. You can read an interview with Paula and see pictures of the sculpture she designed here.
Wanda’s Words Got Stuck is one of the books recommended in Mind Yourself, a new mental health and wellbeing reading guide from Children’s Books Ireland. Created in partnership with Jigsaw and ISPCC Childline, this was conceived as a ‘first-aid kit’ to help children explore, and cope with, difficult feelings and emotions. You can read more about this fantastic initiative and download the free reading guide here.
This is an appropriate book for Halloween because it’s about witches, but it’s suitable for any time of the year. A lot of the action is classroom-based, so it would also be excellent for helping children to prepare for, and adjust to, starting school. Anxious or shy children, and those with additional speech and language needs, will certainly relate to Wanda, but this is an enchanting story with a universal appeal.
Title: Wanda's Words Got Stuck Author: Lucy Rowland
Illustrator: Paula Bowles Publisher: Nosy Crow Publication Date: 3rd September 2020 ISBN: 9781788006811