How Stella Learned to Talk – book review

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How Stella Learned to Talk: The Groundbreaking Story of the World’s First Talking Dog
by Christina Hunger
Autobiography
Biography
Nonfiction
Adult (but teens may enjoy!)
* * * * * Stars (Amazing!)

When Christina and her boyfriend decided to adopt a puppy, they started to notice the many ways that Stella (the dog) tried to communicate with them. Christina, a recently qualified speech pathologist, had received all kinds of specialized training in helping nonverbal children (or those with limited abilities) communicate using assistive devices, and when she observed similar behaviors in Stella, she began to wonder if Stella could learn to speak using a device. After some discussion, Christina decided to order some programmable buttons, onto which she recorded a few words that were important to Stella – outside, play, water. The buttons were large enough that Stella could use a paw to press them when she wanted to speak, and after a few weeks of Christina using the words and modeling them, Stella seemed to catch on! The experiment really took off after that. Eventually Stella had over 40 buttons/words programmed on a board (her device) which she used in various combinations to have conversations with her people – sometimes surprising them with the things she had to say. Christina shares childhood developmental research, training methods, and stories about Stella’s achievements in this fascinating book about how Stella learned to talk. Wonderful and revelatory – Stella’s story is inspiring. What would *your* dog say if they had the words?

Reviewed by YA Librarian

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