Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Book Review - Stand Straight, Ella Kate

In this series of book reviews celebrating National Inclusive Schools Week, I am focusing on a story about a slightly different kind of special needs. 

Author: Kate Klise
Illustrator: M. Sarah Klise
Publisher: Dial Books for Young Children (April 29, 2010)
Reading Level: 3rd to 5th grade
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Description from GoodReads:

Ella Kate Ewing was born in 1872. She started out small, but she just kept on growing. Soon she was too tall for her desk at school, too tall for her bed at home, too tall to fit anywhere. Ella Kate was a real-life giant, but she refused to hide herself away. Instead, she used her unusual height to achieve her equally large dreams.
The masterful Klise sisters deliver a touching and inspiring true story about a strong-minded girl who finally embraced her differences. It’s the perfect book for every child who has ever felt like an outsider.

Familiar to me for their creative and humorous 43 Old Cemetary Road Series, the talented Klise sisters take on the true story of Ella Kate Ewing.   Imagine living in the late 1800's in Missouri and exhibiting amazing growth?  In Stand Straight, Ella Kate, Klise tells Ewing's story with matter of care and just the right balance of humor.  Ewing began her accelerated growth at age 7 and by the time she was 17 she stood 8 feet tall.  Throughout her childhood, Ella Kate was teased by those around her.  Unable to find clothes that fit properly or to even place her legs under a desk, Ewing coped by attempting to slouch.  Her supportive parents would remind her to "stand straight".  At 17 years of age, Ella Kate was offered a job in the Museum of Chicago.  Despite her parents' concern and her own insecurity about her height, Ella Kate accepted the job.  Her time with the museum taught her that she could use her height to her advantage.  Not only did she become an exceptional business woman which allowed her to help care for her parents, but she was also able to build a home that was designed to fit her.  When she accepts a position in the circus as "The tallest lady on earth", her life veers into an adventure with  experiences that were not typically available to women during that time period.

There were quite a number of things that I really enjoyed about this book.  There is a timelessness to this story that will make it appeal to readers of various ages.  Young children will appreciate the book from the perspective of hearing a well developed story.  Older children can learn from the book how to appreciate individual differences and to face diversity.  Ewing was able to turn what might have been seen as a negative into a chance to live her life financially comfortable but to also travel the world.  Sarah Klise's illustations add an extra dimension and perspective to the book.  And at the conclusion of the book there is information about Ewing's medical condition (gigantism) and a photo of the real Ella Kate. 

It was interesting to see how the author and illustrator work together to provide a wonderful story with illustrations that truly enhance the reader's understanding.  A solid addition to any classroom collection of books on celebrating/recognizing differences.

As part of this week's series, I am giving readers a chance to win one of three books.  Please check out the details here.