Stand Straight, Ella Kate

Stand Straight, Ella Kate: The Story of a Real Giant by Kate and M. Sarah Klise

When Ella Kate was born in 1872, she was normal sized, but that soon changed.  At school she needed a larger desk that her father built for her, and she was wearing her father’s shoes, size 12.  Ella Kate was sometimes ridiculed for her size.  At age 17, she reached 8 feet tall, finally growing to a height of 8 feet 4 inches tall.  When she was 18, she was approached to appear at a museum because of her height.  This started a six year tour of museums, exhibitions and circuses where she made enough money to pay off her family’s farm and build her own house.  It was a house that was built specifically for her height with very high ceilings and tall windows.  After building her home, Ella Kate returned to the exhibition circuit, continuing her travels around the world.

Ella Kate is an example for all of us: she took what made her different and strange and made it into an asset.  The Klise sisters have created a book that has just the right tone.  It is playful and fun, but always treats Ella Kate with awe and respect.  It is not just her size that is impressive for modern readers, but an understanding that Ella Kate was an independent woman in a time when women did not live that sort of life.  The art in the book, done with acrylics, echoes the playful spirit of the text.  The images often show Ella Kate’s height in a unique way without it being mentioned in the text.  Just the family laundry on the line is worthy of attention.

A warm picture book biography of a giant of a woman.  Appropriate for ages 5-8.

Reviewed from copy received from Dial Books.


Accomplice by Eireann Corrigan

This book will be released in August 2010.

It was a perfect plan, but then it all went wrong.  When their college prep advisor tells them that it takes more than good grades and community service to get into the best schools, Finn and Chloe decide to make themselves and their college essays very special.  They stage Chloe’s kidnapping, hiding her in the basement of Finn’s grandmother’s house because she is out of town.  It was supposed to be simple, but their carefully staged deception starts to wear on Finn as she is forced to lie to everyone, carefully staging her emotions and reactions to not only keep the lie going but to make sure that they get enough attention from the media.  When CNN shows up to cover the kidnapping, Finn and Chloe know that it cannot end the way they had planned and are forced to make dreadful choices.  Don’t pick up this page turner without clearing your day first, it is impossible to put down!

With a great premise, the book opens with Finn in the midst of the situation already.  There is little time to draw breath as readers are immediately plunged into a faked kidnapping staged by two very smart but very naive girls.  The drive to have a bit of fame combined with the pressures of college applications make for a potent combination for a book. 

The story is told from Finn’s point of view as she deals with attending school and lying to everyone in her life, including Chloe’s parents and her own. Finn is in denial about a lot of things throughout the book, facing complicated feelings about her best friend.  This tension about their relationship and what is at the heart of it makes the book even more compelling as Finn tries to navigate a situation of her own making.

This riveting novel is tightly written.  The book builds tension as Finn struggles with her emotions and with the fallout from the kidnapping.  It is not breakneck paced, rather it is woven into an intense read. 

Ideal for booktalking to teens, this book will have everyone right from the premise.  It completely lives up to its promise as a thrilling look at lies and fame.  Appropriate for ages 14-17.

Reviewed from ARC received from Scholastic.

Bank Street College of Education Best Children’s Books of 2010

For the first time, the Bank Street College of Education is offering their list of the best books of the year online.  You can check out the books included in the list on their website.  The lists are nicely arranged by age.  They are in pdf format which is nice for those of us who would like to refer to them again and again.

One nice feature of the list is that even for teens, some of the books are marked as good read alouds.  I can see teachers and parents finding that very useful.