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Sunday, February 27, 2011

Short, written by John Schwartz. Roaring Book Press, 2010. $19.99 ages 12 and up

"Now don't go thinking that
anybody who says he can make
you taller is just full of hot air and
that the only transformation he is
capable of is transforming your
money into his. There are legitimate
treatments out there - but some of
them sound more like the stuff
of horror movies than medical

Does it take a short man to write a book about short people? I don't know; but, we are blessed to have John Schwartz take up the cause for people like himself everywhere. Perhaps his experiences are the impetus needed to write this thoughtful and special book. He is a science writer at the New York Times and thought the time had come for someone to write a book that would speak to those who share his vertically challenged state. In doing so, he makes a case for anyone who is different...and goodness knows, that applies:

"But many of us, at some time of another, have felt different - and have hoped that what makes us different might actually make us special."
It is funny, wise and written in first person which gives it such presence and immediacy for his audience. He impresses with his knowledge of statistics, and his cautionary tone about where we get our information. We can all find studies that voice our beliefs and biases. Many studies seem to have been undertaken to prove that 'tall'  is good...for jobs, for advancement in those jobs, for monetary acumen. It is difficult to tell when the reporting of such studies is skewed. John Schwartz helps his readers develop an ability to detect such hype, and a response to those who would demean short people:

"So when you see the big headlines about those studies saying that, on average, short people don't achieve as much, or that on average they don't earn as much, or that on average they aren't as smart, there's a handy response: Who wants to be average?"

He asks his readers to think clearly about such beliefs about being different, and to use what physical characteristics are theirs to be all that they can be. He offers the opinion that it is up to each of us to help people understand our strengths and who we are.  While amusing and personal, he gives us all pause to think about our own idiosyncrasies, and the lengths people go to in order to change who they are to meet some assumed standard. When boys can't be too short and girls can't be too tall, don't we need to step back and consider for a moment, 'why?'

Thoughtful and uplifting. Thank you, John Schwartz!

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