Short: Walking Tall When You're Not Tall at All

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Overview

A SURVIVAL GUIDE TO GROWING UP SHORT. Part science book, part memoir—a
book for everyone concerned about looking (or feeling) different.

When veteran journalist John Schwartz took a close look at famous height studies, he made a surprising discovery: being short doesn’t have to be a disadvantage! Part advice book, part memoir, and part science primer, this fascinating book explores the marketing, psychology, ...

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Overview

A SURVIVAL GUIDE TO GROWING UP SHORT. Part science book, part memoir—a
book for everyone concerned about looking (or feeling) different.

When veteran journalist John Schwartz took a close look at famous height studies, he made a surprising discovery: being short doesn’t have to be a disadvantage! Part advice book, part memoir, and part science primer, this fascinating book explores the marketing, psychology, and mythology behind our obsession with height and delivers a reassuring message to kids of all types that they can
walk tall—whatever it is that makes them different.
 

Short is a 2011 Bank Street - Best Children's Book of the Year.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Schwartz, a reporter for the New York Times, debuts with an investigation of the relationship between height, wealth, and happiness, that's rich with examples from his own life. At 5'3” as an adult, Schwartz has been considered short all his life, which has affected him in ways both obvious and invisible. With an accessibly informal and even cheeky tone, he mixes personal anecdotes with information from scientific papers, news articles, and interviews as he explores hormones and surgeries marketed to children and parents, breaks down the biases that can be found in scientific studies, and even covers the embarrassment (but also bargains!) to be had shopping in the boys' department. Schwartz also discusses ways to physically and mentally deal with shortness (and how it can be an advantage), encouraging healthy eating, exercise, and breaking the habit of blaming one's problems on height: “[L]earning to tell what's real from what's hype can save you from a lot of unhappiness.” Charts and statistics complement this down-to-earth and hopeful account, which demonstrates that being different doesn't have to forecast what Schwartz calls a “second-rate life.” Ages 11-14. (Apr.)
From the Publisher

“A perfect book for short kids. . . If you have a son, grandson or nephew who’s worried about his height, get the book for him. He’ll thank you for the ego-boost.” —Parade magazine

Short: Walking Tall When You’re Not Tall at All is an encouraging book for young readers . . . .. It combines memoir, science and survival tips.” —The Washington Post, “Health Scan” column

“[A] down-to-earth and hopeful account, which demonstrates that being different doesn't have to forecast what Schwartz calls a ‘second-rate life.’”—Publishers Weekly

“Appealing and engaging . . . its personal and objective insights are thoughtful and helpful.” —Kirkus Reviews

“In a humorous, personal voice New York Times journalist Schwartz combines his own memories of growing up short with related discussions about physiology, statistics, popular culture, and societal prejudice. . . . He draws upon his own experience; interviews with others; and biographies of short, successful astronauts, artists, and politicians to show that while size matters, it doesn’t determine a person’s future.” —Booklist

“In a style that is funny, accessible, and irreverent, Schwartz deftly handles topics such as human growth hormones, bullies, genetics, and the psychology of being short. Interviews with a variety of experts are included, and the author does an excellent job of clarifying complicated statistics.” —School Library Journal
 
“The author, who is ‘vertically challenged’ himself, takes a look at society’s attitudes about height. His message is that height is determined by factors that no individual can control. The book emphasizes that self-esteem is important to success, and attempts to explode the stereotypes and myths that society holds about short people.” —Library Media Connection magazine, Starred review
 
“A great sense of humor permeates the book…Finally the book gives those who are different from the norm (which the author points out is almost everyone in one way or another) strategies for coping and navigating in a world that does not always fit. The book’s conversational tone is engaging and flows smoothly…Although the book is focused on height, there are parallels drawn with other body and self-image issues, giving readers of any size much food for thought.” —VOYA

From the Publisher
“A perfect book for short kids. . . If you have a son, grandson or nephew who’s worried about his height, get the book for him. He’ll thank you for the ego-boost.” —Parade magazine

Short: Walking Tall When You’re Not Tall at All is an encouraging book for young readers . . . .. It combines memoir, science and survival tips.” —The Washington Post, “Health Scan” column

“[A] down-to-earth and hopeful account, which demonstrates that being different doesn't have to forecast what Schwartz calls a ‘second-rate life.’”—Publishers Weekly

“Appealing and engaging . . . its personal and objective insights are thoughtful and helpful.” —Kirkus Reviews

“In a humorous, personal voice New York Times journalist Schwartz combines his own memories of growing up short with related discussions about physiology, statistics, popular culture, and societal prejudice. . . . He draws upon his own experience; interviews with others; and biographies of short, successful astronauts, artists, and politicians to show that while size matters, it doesn’t determine a person’s future.” —Booklist

“In a style that is funny, accessible, and irreverent, Schwartz deftly handles topics such as human growth hormones, bullies, genetics, and the psychology of being short. Interviews with a variety of experts are included, and the author does an excellent job of clarifying complicated statistics.” —School Library Journal

 

“The author, who is ‘vertically challenged’ himself, takes a look at society’s attitudes about height. His message is that height is determined by factors that no individual can control. The book emphasizes that self-esteem is important to success, and attempts to explode the stereotypes and myths that society holds about short people.” —Library Media Connection magazine, Starred review

 

“A great sense of humor permeates the book…Finally the book gives those who are different from the norm (which the author points out is almost everyone in one way or another) strategies for coping and navigating in a world that does not always fit. The book’s conversational tone is engaging and flows smoothly…Although the book is focused on height, there are parallels drawn with other body and self-image issues, giving readers of any size much food for thought.” —VOYA

Children's Literature - Jennifer Lehmann
Aimed at boys below average height, this book has wisdom to impart to everyone who has felt that their physical differences place them on the outside. The media does not always translate the findings of scientific research to the public accurately. Marketing is directed at the average person and frequently works to instill the belief that if one is not average, there is something wrong that needs fixing. Although many understand these truths, it is still difficult to ignore the messages. For young people battling the hallways of middle and high school, it can be even more difficult to understand. Schwartz, a short man himself, looks at the research about height and its effects, as well as examining how this research has been portrayed. Headlines touting that short people make less money refer to studies that actually show factors such as early nutrition and adolescent confidence correlate much more strongly with future success. Other studies that appear to show that tall people are hired instead of short people were based on surveys of college students and not people who actually make employment decisions. The discussion about this research not only explains the findings clearly, but it also provides methods of examining any media or research carefully. The intended age group is unclear, as some aspects seem appropriate for middle school students, but others seem more advanced, and the pop culture references are a bit dated. The encouragement to look critically at the messages we are given on a daily basis, however, is invaluable. This book gives the tools to do so in an entertaining way and opens itself to anyone who falls outside the range of normal. Reviewer: Jennifer Lehmann
VOYA - Erin Wyatt
A great sense of humor permeates this book, which presents an exploration of what it is to be short in contemporary America. The author, who measures in at five foot three, draws from his personal experience in addition to thorough research on the subject. While acknowledging some real disadvantages and inconveniences to having a short stature, he debunks a fair number of myths and inaccuracies. Various medical treatments to increase height, including surgeries and drugs, are explored, along with the impact that marketing has had on the popularity of such measures. Research, as reported in the press, about the achievement and income gap between short and tall people is deconstructed through interviews with the researchers and a careful reading of the studies. Finally the book gives those who are different from the norm (which the author points out is almost everyone in one way or another) strategies for coping and navigating in a world that does not always fit. The book's conversational tone is engaging and flows smoothly, including when the information being presented is scientific and serious. Even standard deviations are explained succinctly and with a sense of fun. Particularly helpful is the model of how to interpret data and information as reported by various media. The text's relatively short length and larger-sized print make it an accessible, quick read. Although the book is focused on height, there are parallels drawn with other body and self-image issues, giving readers of any size much food for thought. Reviewer: Erin Wyatt
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up—Looking to dispel the popular myth that shorter people don't do as well in life, that they encounter far more difficulties, earn less money, and aren't as happy romantically as their taller counterparts, the author breaks down related studies and explains the real statistics behind the headlines and hype. In a style that is funny, accessible, and irreverent, Schwartz deftly handles topics such as human growth hormones, bullies, genetics, and the psychology of being short. Interviews with a variety of experts are included, and the author does an excellent job of clarifying complicated statistics. In this part memoir, part self-help book, and part treatise on why the media and the medical establishment have blown short stature way out of proportion, the author uses his own experiences and those of others to demonstrate how many of the myths are wrong. Booktalk this with Dan Elish's Born Too Short (S & S) and Joan Bauer's Stand Tall (Putnam, both 2002) as a fun way to get kids interested in the topic—Jody Kopple, Shady Hill School, Cambridge, MA
Jerry Griswold
This amusing and autobiographical chapter book is addressed to young readers who may be considering the purchase of elevator shoes. But it could also prove reassuring to their parents…Humor…is Schwartz's route to self-esteem, and there are laughs aplenty.
—The New York Times
Kirkus Reviews
Randy Newman famously sang, "short people got no reason to live," but Schwartz presents himself as living proof that being short is no obstacle to happiness or success. Functioning as both a memoir and an advice book, the narrative shares the author's experiences of growing up short in a culture that favors the tall and explores scientific facts about height. Using examples from marketing, mythology and psychology, it shows that the cultural obsession with height can be unhealthy and even dangerous and that prejudice against the short persists. The author offers readers sound advice on both how to avoid falling into the trap of believing shortness is synonymous with inferior and the healthy lifestyle everyone should pursue to realize his or her full potential growth. There are extensive recommendations for further reading and study. The narrative's conversational style is appealing and engaging, and its personal and objective insights are thoughtful and helpful. The author quotes Newman then successfully proves him wrong. (Nonfiction. 11-14)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781596433236
  • Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
  • Publication date: 4/13/2010
  • Pages: 144
  • Age range: 11 - 14 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

JOHN SCHWARTZ is a reporter for The New York Times. He lives in New Jersey, and has a wife and three kids. He’s shorter than all of them.

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Read an Excerpt

The Fixers
When I was a kid, twelve cents could buy you a lot of fun. That’s what a comic book cost then. I could buy eight of them for a dollar at the Piggly Wiggly store, and read the adventures of Superman, Batman, and the Green Lantern. When I was nine, my mom even bought me a Superman suit and cape and I would actually wear them around the house. I’d jump off the couch, the cape .ying behind me, and sometimes even wore the suit under my clothes just like Superman did. My dad tells me he was scared to death that I’d try climbing up on the roof to see if I could really .y. I avoided that disaster, though. Even then, I knew it was make-believe. I would never be faster than a speeding bullet, but a boy could dream.
Reading my comic books, I lingered over the ads for “elevator shoes” and Liftee height pads that promised to add between two and four inches of height “invisibly.” How did those work? The word elevator made it sound like there was something mechanical in there, or maybe even magical. But the shoes really just had soles that were several inches thick. Even in the ads, those monster shoes looked like they might be too heavy for my little matchstick legs to lift. I’d be taller, but I’d have to stand in one place all day.
“BE TALLER— Stand 2– 6 inches TALLER in a few weeks. All ages. No gimmicks. GUARANTEED. Send 35¢. . . .”
The get-tall ads were right by the ones for big-muscle programs from Charles Atlas body­building that would, if I sent Mr. Atlas money and followed the directions in his booklet, help me fol­low his path from “97-pound weakling” to “the world’s most perfectly developed man.” Even bet­ter: Mike Marvel, who
“CAN BUILD YOU A MAGNIFICENT
NEW HE- MAN- MUSCLED BODY
IN JUST TEN MINUTES A DAY—
with absolutely NO weights—
NO bar- bells—
NO EXERCISE AT ALL!”
In the years between my time as a kid and yours, a lot of things have happened. Comic books cost four dollars or more these days. And we now have spam to tell us we can get taller, or, um, bigger. But the basic idea—the idea that there’s something ter­ribly, tragically wrong with you, and if you just give us money we will .x it—is still the same.
The pitches have never gone away, and never will, because the marketers know that most of us believe, deep down, that in some way we don’t mea­sure up. That our bodies could be better. Should be better. And they think that we will pay dearly for the promise of a .x.
Sleazy salesmen have no trouble at all playing on that kind of insecurity and selling short guys fake drugs that they promise will make them taller. The
U.S. government recently cracked down on a com­pany selling something called Heightmax that was supposed to increase height by 35 percent in a year for users between the ages of twelve and twenty-. ve.
Let’s do that math: That would mean somebody .ve feet tall would grow an additional 21 inches— nearly two feet. The wonderful people who pulled off this scam faked an “inventor” whose name they put in radio ads, and had testimonials from people who said their lives had been changed by the magic medi­cine. The ads said Heightmax would be “the answer to your prayers.”
The company didn’t admit that they were scam-ming people. Instead, they settled the government’s lawsuit against them, paying nearly two million dol­lars in .nes. But think about it: That means that even though the claims were obviously absurd, they had sold millions of dollars’ worth of this worthless product to suckers. And that is a lesson in just how powerful the urge is to take what nature gave us and stretch it. The makers of Heightmax are not the only ones. They’re just the most recent ones to get caught.
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 tranform­ing your money into his. There are legitimate treat­ments out there—but some of them sound more like the stuff of horror movies than medical treatment. And while the scams tend to be harmless aside from the money that the suckers lose, the treatments can lead to pain and disaster.
The most extreme example is a pro cess called limb lengthening. The details are gruesome: Doctors actually saw apart the patient’s leg bones and put the legs in adjustable braces that look a little like cages with knobs on them. (You really don’t want to see the pictures.) The patient then turns the knobs a few times a day, which stretches the bone apart a tiny bit at a time. In other words, it’s like a medieval torture rack, but it’s applied in a hospital instead of a dun­geon. The other difference is that the patients pay for their torture: about $25,000. If everything goes right, the healing bone bridges the gap bit by bit, and over six months’ time in the brace the patient can get to be a few inches taller. It takes two years to recover fully.
The procedure is especially popular in China, where the government discriminates against people based on height. There are height requirements for some professions there, so being short can keep peo­ple from getting positions as diplomats, . ight atten­dants, and more. A story in the New York Times said that would- be Chinese diplomats must be at least .ve foot seven if they are men, .ve foot three if they are women. The Chinese news agency says that men have to be .ve foot nine and women, . ve foot .ve to apply for college majors such as acting or broadcasting. What’s a short person to do? Well, some folks get lengthened. And, sadly, the Chinese press is full of accounts of surgeries gone horribly wrong. There are legitimate problems, such as dwar.sm or having one leg shorter than the other, that are severe enough to justify the risks of surgery, but the procedure is just way too dangerous and painful to go through just to look taller.
In 2006, China cracked down on the surgery. Mao Qun’an, a Health Ministry spokesman in China, said that it “must only be carried out for strict medical reasons.”
Good luck with that one, Mao. It looks like the surgery isn’t going away anytime soon. One Chinese doctor, Dr. Xia, advertises his Beijing Institute of External Fixation Technology around the world. His website says that the institute is “where science and technology meet your dreams.”
Yikes.
In the United States, patients are more likely to turn to drugs when they want to grow taller. And there is a lot of work by real scientists and real drug companies to help people to grow. They aren’t like the sleazy Internet guys—their treatments, depend­ing on which study you read or which doctors you talk to, might end up buying you an extra inch or two. But there are some real problems with the way that they sell their stuff, too.
So let’s talk about drugs.
No, this is not a DARE lecture. I mean medicine to give people a height boost—human growth hor­mone. Like the leg surgery, it started as an attempt to .x medical problems. But, like the leg surgery, its use has spread to people who are merely short.
Human growth hormone is a chemical messen­ger that occurs naturally in the body and is part of the pro cess that spurs growth and development. If a person’s body doesn’t produce enough of it, that per­son is likely to be very small, and the small person is said to have a medical condition such as dwar. sm.
Those people can be helped by injections of human growth hormone, which helps supply what their body doesn’t.
In the early days, scientists didn’t know how to manufacture the hormone, so they extracted it from the bodies of dead people. By 1985, a synthetic ver­sion had been developed and was approved for use as a medicine, mainly for those people suffering from severe problems such as dwar.sm. Some doc­tors prescribed it for patients who didn’t have those problems, though. Bodybuilders wanted it, though it hasn’t been proven to actually help them. (Those guys will take just about anything that they think will pump them up.) And some doctors also started prescribing the hormones for children who don’t have a hormone de.ciency but are just plain short. That’s a big difference.
Before long, the drug companies were pushing the government to give its blessing to what they had been doing anyway. And so, in 2003, the govern­ment did approve the use of growth hormones for short kids who weren’t suffering from a medical condition—to be speci.c, the shortest 1.2 percent of children. For ten-year-old boys and girls, that meant anyone shorter than four foot one. The idea was that it would be used in kids likely to grow to adult heights of less than .ve foot three (for boys) and four feet eleven (for girls.) Did I mention that I’m . ve foot three? So I am of.cially really short. But I didn’t need a government ruling to tell me that.
The phrase that was used by the drug compa­nies and the government to describe being short was a whopper: idiopathic short stature. Idiopathic is one of those great words doctors and scientists use to describe something that they don’t understand, something with an unknown cause. So idiopathic short stature means “this person is short and it’s not for any of the medical conditions we know about, such as, say, growth hormone de.ciency.” Now, the most common reason that somebody is short is that his parents are short—we’ll talk a little more about that later on. But using fancy words derived from Greek with a lot of syllables makes it all sound very medical, very disease-ish.
It’s not the .rst time that the medical industry has tried to sell cosmetic treatments by using a fancy medical-sounding name for the problem—they used the same trick back in the early days of breast implants.
As you might have noticed, breasts come vari­ous sizes. Some women whose breasts are on the smaller side would like them to be bigger—and, wouldn’t you know it, an industry has grown up around making money off those feelings of being too small and inadequate. The medical answer is breast implant surgery, and hundreds of thousands of women a year get the procedure done.
The companies that wanted to sell women on the idea of making their breasts bigger didn’t use plain words such as . at chested. Instead, they made it sound like a medical condition that needed treat­ment, and called it “micromastia.” The companies making breast implants argued that women with .at chests suffered from a lack of con. dence and would lack success in love and careers. To hear the doctors talk about it, the women were destined to have a second-class life.
Sound familiar?
And so, when the Food and Drug Admini­stration considered giving its blessing to using growth hormone to treat the terrible disease of shortness, one of the scientists from Eli Lilly, a hormone maker, called the condition a “growth failure problem.” The scientists laid out a list of problems that short kids face that made it sound as if it would be cruel to de­prive them of the solution. And the announcement from the government that the drug had been ap­proved for merely short kids talked a lot about idio­pathic short stature. It was all very medical-sounding.
Growth hormone has been a real blockbuster in the years since the approval. According to the market research company IMS Health, the growth

Excerpted from Short by John Schwartz.
Copyright © 2010 by John Schwartz.
Published in April 2010 by Roaring Book Press.
All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and
reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in
any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 2.5
( 4 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 18, 2013

    To "READ ME!"

    Just so you know.. Most guys like shorter girls. Personally I like anyone from 5foot to 5'6.. Thats just me.. Now guys on the other hand,well its a different story. If youre a short guy GOOD LUCK!! Im a fifteen y.o guy anf im 5'11.. Happy reading!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 20, 2013

    READ ME!! kwells@east-haven.k12.ct.us

    Hi add me if you have this book

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 10, 2012

    READ ME!!!

    I am barely 5'1" and im a 14 yr old girl who is suppose to be done growing in a couple montgs. I have to say: i love being short! There's nothing wrong with it at all. I was surprised someone had actually wrote a book about beibg short. Lol!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 28, 2012

    What

    Id (i dont) gt this book - Rock 'n Roll -


    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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