Title: A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams

Author:  Jen Bryant and Melissa Stewart

Publication Date: 2008

Publisher: Eerdmans Books for Young Readers

Price: $17.00

Number of Pages: 40

Awards: Caldecott Honor

Genre/Subgenre: Picture book, Biography


Popularity: 4/5
Quality: 5/5

Reader’s Annotation:

The story of William Carlos Williams, the doctor-poet.


A River of Words tells the life story of William Carlos Williams, a poet/doctor of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. William Carlos Williams loved poetry as a boy, but went to college to study medicine with the encouragement of his mother. William Carlos Williams experimented with verse and abandoned traditional forms in favor of a more visual type of poetry. While in college, he met other artists and poets like Ezra Pound, who he would continue to be in contact with. When he earned his MD and moved home to open his practice, he continued to write poetry. William Carlos Williams spent his life as both a pediatrician and obstetrician and as a poet.


A River of Words is a wonderful introduction to the poetry of William Carlos Williams. The text of the novel is paired very effectively with poetry written by William Carlos Williams. The illustrations, which have a collage-type look, are absolutely stunning – truly works of art. I think young readers will enjoy them and want to read the book over and over.

Why I Chose the Book:

I am a William Carlos Williams fan and I thought this book was beautifully illustrated.


Pablo Neruda: Poet of the People by Monica Brown

Langston’s Train Ride by Robert Burleigh

Walt Whitman by Barbara Kerley

Book Talk Ideas

Have a reading of William Carlos Williams’ poetry.

Discussion Questions

1. Of the William Carlos Williams poems in A River of Words, which is your favorite? What do you like about it?

2. William Carlos Williams wrote about ordinary things that he encountered in his day to day life. How does this make him different than other poets?


Amazon.com (2014). Pricing information. Retrieved from http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0802853021/ref=x_gr_w_bb?ie=UTF8&tag=httpwwwgoodco-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0802853021&SubscriptionId=1MGPYB6YW3HWK55XCGG2

Bryant, J. & Stewart, M. (2008). A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams. Eerdmans Books for Young Readers: Grand Rapids, MI.

Goodreads (2014). A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams by Jennifer Fisher Bryant. Retrieved from https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3238642-a-river-of-words?ac=1

“A River of Words.” NoveList K-8. EBSCO, 29 Aug. 2008. Web. 3 May 2014. <http://0-search.ebscohost.com.catalog.sjlibrary.org/login.aspx?direct=true&db=njh&tg=UI&an=285399&site=novpk8-live&gt;.