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Instead of having a little button nose like one of her sisters, her nose was long, and the nostrils were wide. It looked like it was too big for her face, and when she smiled, it only got bigger.
Little Myrtle was only eight years old, so she didn't have a clue as to how she looked. She was a little tomboy, so she never looked at herself in the mirror. She was too busy having fun climbing to the top of the tree and then sliding down, pretending she was Spider-Man, and trying to climb up buildings sideways. She also liked imagining she was on exploring expeditions with her friends. After school, they would enter the neighborhood apartment buildings and pretend they were in a cave or pyramid. Sometimes they even thought they heard ghosts. This would frighten them, and they would run out of the building, screaming. Once they were out, they would laugh, and then their imaginations would take off. They were convinced that they had encountered a ghost.
Even though Little Myrtle didn't know or care how she looked, others did. There were two brothers in her neighborhood, Tom and Joe, who were always teasing her and calling her Skinny Legs; Myrtle was small in height and weight. She ate everything her mother put on her plate. She would even eat food her sisters could not finish. She just didn't gain weight because she was so active, running and climbing. The two brothers who called her names actually pronounced Skinny Legs as "tinny legs" because they couldn't pronounce the letter s. Myrtle would laugh at them because they couldn't pronounce the letter s. Even though they teased her about her skinny legs, they never made fun of her nose.
The first time someone laughed at Myrtle's big nose was when her sister, who's three years older than Myrtle, got mad at her. She began teasing Myrtle about her big nose. She kept singing, "Big nose, big nose, Myrtle has a big nose." Myrtle was puzzled because no one had called her Big Nose before. Also, she didn't understand why her sister thought her nose was big.
After this first incident of name-calling, her sister began to call her Big Nose every time she would get angry with Myrtle. All Myrtle would hear was "Big nose, big nose, Myrtle has a big nose." Then she would ask, "Myrtle, why is your nose so big?" Sometimes she would get Myrtle's other two sisters to join her in singing. "Big nose, big nose, Myrtle has a big nose." Myrtle would only cry and yell, "Stop calling me names!"
Now Myrtle realized that there was something wrong with her because she had a big nose, and apparently, she wasn't supposed to have a big nose. Each time her sister would call her this, Myrtle began to feel hurt by the name-calling. She began to feel ugly and ashamed of her big nose. She worried that others would start noticing her big nose.
One day Myrtle and her sister were arguing, and their grandfather was nearby. He heard Myrtle's sister sing, "Big nose, big nose, Myrtle has a big nose." Grandfather could see that Myrtle was hurt, so he said to the older sister, "Why, your nose looks like an electric bulb." The older sister began to cry. She ran to tell their mother that Grandfather said she had an electric bulb for a nose. Grandfather explained to his older granddaughter, "Now you know how it feels for someone to say hurtful things to you." That wasn't the last time Myrtle's sister called her Big Nose, but when her sister called her that, Myrtle would only have to call her sister Electric- Bulb Nose, and her sister would leave her alone.
Unfortunately, Grandfather could not be at school to teach that lesson to Myrtle's classmates. One day Myrtle's class was finishing their lunch break in the cafeteria. The students were lining up to go outside when some children began teasing this boy because his skin color was so light. Although Myrtle did not say anything, she laughed at something that was said. The boy looked at her angrily, and then, in front of all the other students, he said, "Why are you laughing, with that big nose on your face?" All the children began to laugh and point at Myrtle.
Her classmates had never laughed at her nose before. Now everyone was looking at her nose and laughing because they could now see that it was big.
Little Myrtle was devastated and was fighting back tears. For the first time, someone other than her sister had noticed her big nose and made it an item to be laughed at. Before, when her sister called her Big Nose, she was puzzled by the statement and hurt that her sister was teasing her, but now she was fully aware that the nose on her face was different from the other children's noses, or at least she thought so.
After the incident at school, Myrtle began to hate her big nose. Every picture she saw, all she could see was her big nose. She hated looking at pictures of herself. She would not look at herself in the mirror. Myrtle began to withdraw and hold her head down because she didn't want people to notice her big nose.
The happy little girl who always saw the sun as shining brightly and who dreamed of flying on a magic carpet was now somehow different. She felt like there was something wrong with her. Before, she did not look into mirrors because she didn't care about looks, but now she was too ashamed to look at herself in a mirror.
Excerpted from Big Nose by Shirley A. Perez Copyright © 2013 by Shirley A. Perez. Excerpted by permission of Trafford Publishing. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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