In studying the book, I looked for tools that the author used to bring the story to life. Here are some of the things I found. (These tools came from several different articles.)
1. Build suspense early on with a page turn.
"Like the other boys in Rutherford, New Jersey, Willie Williams loved to play baseball and to race his friends up and down the street. But, when the other boys went inside...
* This makes the reader want to continue to find out what Willie did instead.
2. Use time elements to move the story along.
"In those days..."
"As Willie grew older..."
"In high school..."
"At age nineteen.."
"When he graduated..."
"After his long doctor's day..."
* These time markers take us from scene to scene.
3. Use a question to draw the reader in.
"Willie liked the idea of healing people and providing for a family. But could he do both?"
* The reader is invited to read on and find the answer.
4. Provide half dialogue where one person's words are interspersed with narration.
"My Willie has sharp eyes. He notices everything."
"Dr. Williams is the busiest man in town."
"Willie is always in a hurry."
* Dialogue heightens reader interest and provides clues to personality and character.
5. Use a repeated refrain.
"And it was true" was used after each of the above-mentioned bits of half dialogue.
* Children like repetition and like to predict where the phrase will come next.
6. Use onomatopoeia when appropriate.
"Gurgle, gurgle--swish, swoosh. Gurgle, gurgle."
* So fun to say!
7. Use alliteration.
"...slipping and sliding over smooth rocks.."
"...rhythm of the river he had rested beside.."
"...delivered babies, healed hurts and bruises, set broken bones..."
* Using alliteration brings a lyrical quality to the story.
8. Use internal monologue.
"Willie did not feel hurried."
"The river's music both excited and soothed Willie."
"Poetry suited Willie."
* This device presents a character's inner thoughts and emotions in third person.
These are the tools that stood out to me in this story, which is a beautiful blend of text and illustration. I also like that early on we see him loving the outdoors and resting beside the Passaic River, where the river's sounds perhaps first introduce him to the rhythm of poetry--hence the title, A RIVER OF WORDS.