Akhirnya’s CBR III Read #22 Short: Walking Tall When You’re Not Tall At All by John Schwartz (132 p.)

I know this is a little light on pages, but it’s a non-fiction book for kids, which is a concept I support.  Also, it’s a break from the 300-400 page whoppers I’ve been reading recently.  I saw the cover of this book being hawked on my library’s website and requested it solely because of the title.  I’m 4’9” or, in other words, short.  Short enough to meet Little People of America’s height requirements, though they don’t accept folks who just happen to be short.  For that you have to go to the National Organization of Short Statured Adults which just sounds lame.

I picked the book out of curiosity.  At this point in my life, I very rarely notice my distinct lack of height unless if some master of the obvious points it out to me or if I see myself in pictures with friends of whom I don’t think of as giants.  So I didn’t realize that it was a book geared towards children who are attempting to come to terms with their height.

Schwartz weaves together his experiences as a short adolescent and adult with an in-depth look at the much ballyhooed science reports on height.  The memoirs are fun to read and very heartfelt.  His message that young people should be comfortable in their own skin transcends the issue of being ‘vertically challenged’ (I hate that term), delving into what it means to be different when you might be yearning to be average.  It was deeply relatable for me, because I too, was teased for my size, in some of the same ways.  But as Schwartz points out, it’s not just short kids that get bullied, and his reactions to it and arguments against it would do well to build up the self-esteem of adolescents with other issues as well.

As a professional science writer, Schwartz is able to break down many of the famous ‘short people suck’ studies in a way that is understandable for younger readers.  I particularly like this part of the book, because it not only gives kids ways to refute arguments, but by explaining his process of finding out how the studies, he is teaching them how to think critically themselves.  If nothing else, being able to think critically is, well, critical to someone who feels like they are bucking the norm.  It’s above and beyond the best aspect of the book.

If you have ever paid any attention to the ‘short’ reports – or been short enough that people email you these things as jokes (oh, these cruel interwebs) –then you’re sure to recognize the ones that Schwartz debunks: short people don’t get hired, short people make less money, short people are short on brains (har de har har), short people are anti-social, etc.  Schwartz does an excellent job of explaining where these studies come from and refuting them, many times with the help of the scientists that put the studies together in the first place and aren’t happy about how they’ve been misreported in the media.

Short is perfect for the tween sect.  There are time when Schwartz gets a bit too cool for school, suffering a bit from the ‘being hip’ dad syndrome.  So there might be some eye-rolling by young readers, but otherwise his voice comes through so clearly and passionately, and with such care in explaining his arguments, that I think Short capable of winning over young readers.  Definitely recommended for that age group.

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