Stand Tall

Stand Tall

4.4 19
by Joan Bauer

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Tree, a six-foot-three-inch twelve-year-old, copes with his parents' recent divorce and his failure as an athlete by helping his grandfather, a Vietnam vet and recent amputee, and Sophie, a new girl at school.  See more details below


Tree, a six-foot-three-inch twelve-year-old, copes with his parents' recent divorce and his failure as an athlete by helping his grandfather, a Vietnam vet and recent amputee, and Sophie, a new girl at school.

Editorial Reviews
A Los Angeles Times Book Review Best Children's Book of 2002

The Barnes & Noble Review
Acclaimed author Joan Bauer, author of the Newbery Honor book Hope Was Here, gives us a heartfelt look at courage and pride through the eyes of a 12-year-old boy, "the tallest seventh-grade boy in the history of Eleanor Roosevelt Middle School."

Tree, nicknamed for his towering six-foot, three-and-a-half-inch frame, is having a tough time finding reasons to "stand tall." Being one of the "nonathletic nobodies," unable to shoot a basket despite his height -- and with parents on less than friendly terms after their divorce -- Tree feels out of place, with his inner strength at a dim flicker. After his Vietnam vet grandpa has part of his leg amputated and he meets a sure-footed (and unpopular) girl at school, Tree begins to discover that his sizable his body holds a pretty big heart. Yet when a flood hits the town and his old dog, Bradley, has a stroke, Tree uses his remarkable gifts to learn that "everything's got a purpose, really -- you just have to look for it."

Using themes of purpose and inspiration that are familiar to her fans, Bauer brings readers a journey inward through the character of a boy whose awkward feelings shadow the true stuff inside. Tree, with a solid and compassionate demeanor, is instantly likable, and the strength he uses to block life's curve balls will resonate with young readers, especially boys. A powerful read with emotions and layers that come together like the branches of an oak, Stand Tall is another Joan Bauer winner that will keep readers thinking. Matt Warner

Publishers Weekly
In her heartfelt and humorous novel, Bauer (Hope Was Here) leaves teenage girl protagonists in favor of a middle-grade boy as she did also in Sticks (1996). But her fans won't be disappointed. At first, 12-year-old Tree, "six feet, three and a half inches and growing," only literally "stands tall." At school, Coach Glummer expects him to lead the basketball team (though he's not very athletic) and teachers expect him to act older than his age. On the home front which shifts weekly due to his parents' recent divorce and joint custody arrangement Tree is the glue of his family. He helps care for his Vietnam vet grandfather (who recently had a leg amputated) while worrying about his aging dog, Bradley, his two college-student brothers and his parents. Bolstered by his budding friendship with the outspoken new girl at school, Sophie, and by Grandpa, Tree finds an inner strength that helps him deal with just about anything including a natural disaster. Bauer once again creates a clan of believable characters scrambling to make the best of their particular brand of dysfunction. Her swiftly paced story artfully blends poignant and outright funny moments, resulting in a triumphant tale that will resonate with many young readers. Ages 10-up. (Aug.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Sam is known as "Tree" because he is already over 6' 3", even though he is only in seventh grade. He isn't athletic, like his older brothers, and his classmates tease him. His parents have recently divorced, and Tree finds it stressful to keep shuttling between their two households. To top it all off, his old dog is fading fast. But Tree still has some high spots in his life. He adores his grandfather, a funny, tough Vietnam vet who has just had part of his leg amputated, and finds satisfaction in helping him and in his knack for fixing and inventing things. Tree also helps out an outspoken new eighth-grade girl, Sophie, and they become friends. She urges him to take pride in himself, but it isn't until a flood strikes their town that Tree really finds his purpose in life and takes pride in his size. Bauer, the Newbery Honor author of Hope Was Here and other fine books for YAs, has the knack of making her affection for her characters contagious. She writes funny, convincing dialogue, too, and if the life lessons here are spelled out clearly, that's all to the good. "Loss helps you reach for gain," Tree learns, and his story is genuinely heartwarming. Category: Hardcover Fiction. KLIATT Codes: J*—Exceptional book, recommended for junior high school students. 2002, Penguin Putnam, 192p.,
— Paula Rohrlick; KLIATT
At six feet three inches tall, twelve year-old "Tree" is a middle school giant. Thus far, this has proven to be a source of trouble, criticism and teasing. Now, he is slowly realizing the strength he can obtain in his size throughout the events of the story. Along with his disabled Veteran grandfather, unpopular best friend, and newly divorced parents, Tree is learning how to struggle through "war" without losing hope. Though the situation seems unbearable, Tree and the others look to each other for support. When things seem like they just might work out, the entire town is struck with the devastation of an unexpected flood. This forces the community and Tree's family to unite in making it through the flood and rebuilding. Through these and other events, Tree is slowly learning how to stand tall amidst difficulties, using his height as a strength. In that journey, we learn how to maintain hope against all odds. 2002, G.P. Putnam's Sons, 192 pp.,
— Katie Marshall
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-Twleve-year-old Tree stands out in a crowd. Literally. Nicknamed by an antagonistic school bully, Tree is six feet three inches tall and feels lost and out of place. Due to his height, people expect him to act older and play a great game of basketball. Life for Tree is further complicated by his desire to help his Grandpa (who is an amputee as the result of an old war wound), a flood that threatens to destroy most of his town, and his parents' recent divorce. Fortunately Tree's complex and confused world has a silver lining in the form of his Grandpa, a Vietnam vet who is full of words of wisdom, and Sophie, an unpopular, outspoken, yet kind-hearted friend who points out Tree's many attributes and urges him to stand tall and be proud of who is. Joan Bauer's novel (Putnam, 2002) is a sensitive and humorous story about a young boy struggling to find his place in the world. Bauer remains true to her incredible gift of bringing to life strong, believable characters and the world in which they live. Narrator Ron McLarty's voice works well as the even-keeled and wise Grandpa, as well as the edgy, gruff-voiced Trash King, Grandpa's friend. Although he lacks vocal variation for the other characters, it doesn't detract from the story. Joan Bauer fans, bibliotherapy collections, and librarians in need of compelling novels for male teens should purchase this audiobook.-Cheryl Preisendorfer, Twinsburg City Schools, OH Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Tree is the tallest seventh-grade boy ever to attend Eleanor Roosevelt Middle School. At six feet, three and a half inches, Tree knows "tallness is packed with great expectations." He knows "people expect trees to be strong and steady." But being a tree isn't easy. Not when your parents have divorced, leaving you feeling like "a sci-fi movie where someone is there one minute, gone the next. Poof." Or when your beloved grandpa has his right leg removed below the knee and suffers phantom pains in the empty place. Or when you know that Grandpa is still haunted by memories of friends lost in the Vietnam War-a different kind of phantom pain. This is a story of loss and the empty places left behind, and how Tree grows into his name, lives up to expectations, and becomes a hero. From Grandpa, he learns that empty places "don't get filled in right away. You've got to look at them straight on, see what's still standing. Concentrate on what you've got as much as you can." In trees, war, laser pens, even the positive and negative ends of batteries, Bauer (Hope Was Here, 2000, etc.) is a master at finding inspiration and purpose in everyday life. She writes about serious themes with humor, grace, and wisdom. If the story is unabashedly inspirational, maybe that's something young readers will appreciate these days-an eloquent story of ordinary heroes when "the shock of loss was everywhere." (Fiction. 10+)

Product Details

Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date:
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Penguin Group
Sales rank:
HL520L (what's this?)
File size:
344 KB
Age Range:
12 Years

Read an Excerpt




Copyright © 2002 Joan Bauer
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-14-240427-6

Chapter One

"And where is home this week?"

Mrs. Pierce, the school administrative assistant, asked him this.

His brain blistered.

"Your parents didn't fill out the multiple-residence sheet that we sent to them in the fall. We need to know where you are, and when, for emergencies."

She handed him a form with multiple boxes for two home addresses, two business addresses, faxes, e-mails, cell phones, beepers.

He handed her the monthlong schedule his mother had given him-color-coordinated for each week (yellow for when he would be living with her, blue for when he would be living with his father).

When life got tough, his mother got organized.

Mrs. Pierce looked at the schedule. "Will this be changing monthly?"

He shifted. "Yes."

"You'll be getting a new schedule monthly?" She had a too-loud voice.

He nodded.

"You'll need to bring that by the office on the first of the month. And we need to know who is the custodial parent-your mother or father."

"They're doing it together even though they're divorced." He said this quietly.

"If your parents are co-custodians, then that's a different form."

She handed him that form.

"Is there one parent who should be contacted with all school issues?"

He sighed. "They kind of take turns."

She handed him a form for that. "If both parents want to be contacted on any issue, it makes it a little more difficult for us. If they both want to receive your report cards, we need to know that, too."

He didn't want anyone to receive his report cards. He wished there was a form for that.

Mr. Cosgrove, the school janitor, was fixing a squeaky door. He took out his little can of oil, squirted a few drops in the hinges. Opened it, closed it. Instantly fixed.

Mr. Cosgrove could fix anything.

"Is there anything else?" Mrs. Pierce shoved her reading glasses low on her nose.

He wondered if oil worked on administrative assistants.

"Oh, yes," she snipped. "Who will be receiving the invoice for school trips?"

She gazed up at him, way up.

He bent his knees to seem shorter.

"I don't know," he said.

"That can be put on this form-from C-which you can attach to form D, which covers any emergency medical care you might require when you are off school property but participating in school activities, like athletics. And if both your parents want to receive an audiocassette of the principal's nondenominational holiday address, they need to put an X in that box. I think that's it. The newsletter comes out quarterly and can also be mailed to grandparents and other interested parties."

"My grandpa lives with my dad."

"That saves us on postage. I'll need those back by Friday."

He looked at the forms in his hand.

There it was in black and white, just how complicated his life had become.

He stood in front of the huge white oak tree in the middle of Ripley Memorial Park. It was tall and thick with serious bark.

An oak with attitude.

He cocked his head, stretched his long arms out, imitating the tree, and froze.

He'd seen a street performer do this in New York City-the man drew a big crowd. Every so often the man would move slightly. People put money in his hat.

Mrs. Clitter walked by with her granddaughter and stopped.

He didn't move, didn't breathe.

They looked up at him for the longest time.

He moved his right hand a little.

Then his left.

The little girl giggled.

Mrs. Clitter said, "Now, where'd you learn to do that?"

He said nothing. Part of the act.

Winked at the little girl, who grinned.

He had an itch, but didn't scratch it. Mrs. Clitter moved off, laughing. He lifted his leg slightly, wiggled it.

"You say a big hello to that grandfather of yours," she shouted. Mrs. Clitter was in love with his grandfather. "You tell him I'm going to do everything I know to do to help him in his time of need." His grandfather, currently in the Veterans Administration Hospital in Baltimore, had his right leg removed just below the knee two weeks ago. His grandfather usually hid when he saw Mrs. Clitter coming. This was harder to do with half a leg, but he was working on it.

The little girl waved good-bye and crossed the bridge with her grandmother.

He straightened to full height-six feet, three and a half inches.

He was the tallest seventh-grade boy in the history of Eleanor Roosevelt Middle School.

The tallest twelve-year-old boy anyone in Ripley had ever seen.

Now you know why people called him Tree.

It had been years since anyone had called him by his read name, Sam. Jeremy Liggins had first called him Tree in fourth grade. Jeremy was one of those emperor athletes who got to do whatever he wanted. He'd stood on the baseball diamond and renamed half the class, like Adam named the animals in the Bible.

Jeremy's friends got the cool names.



When it came to nonathlete nobodies, the names got harder.


Mole. Snot.

He'd gotten used to the name. Considered the white oak.

Some of its roots protruded from the ground-fat roots that wound around rocks.

He had studied the root systems of trees. Figured if he was going to be called one, he should at least know how they worked.

He'd learned this from his grandfather, who could fix almost anything except Tree's parents' marriage. "You've got to take a thing apart to see what it's made of," his grandpa always said.

So he learned how roots could go as deep in the ground as a tree's branches grow tall.

How they suck up nutrients from the earth like a boy slurps a milk shake through a straw. How the bark protects the tree's insides like skin protects people.

How being a tree is the best thing going in the plant world. People expect trees to be strong and steady and give good shade.

Tallness is packed with great expectations.

He picked up his duffel bag, remembered what he'd forgotten to pack.

Now that he was living every other week at different houses, he always forgot to pack something.

His warm gloves were at his mother's house.

His good sneakers were, too. He needed them for basketball practice, but it would take a lot more than sneakers to make him good at the game.

He couldn't remember if he packed underwear.

Probably not.

His personal park squirrel, Nuts, came a foot away to greet him. Nuts had half an ear, so he was easy to spot. He was more nervous than the other squirrels. Tree always wondered what happened to him. A dysfunctional childhood, probably.

"Hey Nuts." Tree took out a bag of almonds, tossed one to the squirrel. "How's life in the park?"

Nuts shook a little, ate the food.

"You being treated okay? Because if anything's hassling you, you give me a call."

He threw the squirrel another nut.

A strong, cold wind whipped through the park. He'd been playing here, walking here for so many years. But since his parents got divorced, it felt like a different place.

Up the stairs to the north was where he'd go when he was staying at his mom's new house.

Across the footbridge to the south was where his dad and grandfather still lived.

So much had changed since the summer.

Including the white oak.

Its fat green leaves had turned red in the fall, then shriveled up. The acorns had fallen off, picked up by squirrels getting ready for winter.

It was winter in his life, too, and not just because it was December.

He started walking toward his father's house, past a lone Salvation Army trumpeter playing Christmas carols. Fished in his pocket, found a dollar, put it in the red bucket.

Mrs. Stench's dog, Fang, trotted toward him, barking mean.

"Fang, be nice." Mrs. Stench yanked on the expanding leash, lurched forward.

Fang ran up to the white oak, lifted his leg, and peed on the noble gray bark.

Tree sighed deep; cold air came out.

Being a tree isn't easy.

Chapter Two

Tree sat at the computer in his father's dining room.

Typed in

Up on the screen came the smiling face of his mother. A bouncing bird flitted across a cloud that read Thought for the day.

The cloud morphed into Divorce ended our marriage, but our loving family will never end. This was a big theme that Tree's parents were trying to get across.

A little Christmas tree appeared on the screen. An elf was underneath it.

19 Days Till Christmas appeared over the tree. I can't wait. The elf giggled.

Tree sighed.

This would be the first Christmas since the divorce.

The computer screen flickered.

Up popped his mother's schedule. She was in Boston for three days teaching computer seminars, but she was reachable by beeper, cell phone, and e-mail for anything he needed.

He pictured his mother beeping, ringing, and whirring all at once.

Remembered all the hours she put in when she was going to school to become a computer whiz. She'd sit at this machine, working late into the night.

Went from teaching aerobics to running computer seminars in three and a half years. Once his mom got interested in something, she'd learn everything about it that she could.

She'd done that with divorce, too.

A letter from his mother appeared on the screen.

Dear Curtis, Larry, and Tree, it began.

Curtis and Larry were his big brothers, both away at college.

I've been collecting thoughts about Christmas. I'd like us to talk about our feelings in the midst of so much change.

Tree didn't like talking about his feelings.

A wreath came up on the screen.

Then the words: Change is part of life. It is the healthy family that learns to adapt to change that prepares each member for our ever-changing, complex world.

And here's the first question we can discuss. How are we all feeling this Christmas season?

In the response section was a three-word reply from Larry, a freshman at Penn State.

I've got gas, Larry wrote.

Tree started laughing. He could see his mother's smile getting tight when she read that.

Very funny, she'd replied. Humor is one of the ways to diffuse feelings of alienation and frustration at the holidays.

Then up on the screen was a response from his brother Curtis, a sophomore at the University of New Hampshire.

I've got more gas than you.

Tree really laughed now. He knew his mom was trying to reach out, but how she did it sometimes was hard.

His mother wrote, It's certainly nice you're learning such cogent ways of communicating at college. It's certainly nice that you've bothered to respond at all.

Tree tried to think of what he could write back. He ate some barbecue potato chips, burped twice. Maybe I've got more gas than anybody.

Tree really broke up at this and wished his best friend, Sully Devo, was here. Sully had the best laugh of anyone Tree knew. Sully would laugh so hard, he'd fall off a chair and say, "You're killing me, you're killing me," then he'd pull himself together, sit down, and start cracking up all over again.

He clicked on the elf. "Deck the Halls" began to play in that computer-generated musical way.

He shut the computer down. Watched his mother's cyber self disappear from the screen.

On-line quality time, she called it.

He looked at the empty wall where the big hutch used to be.

His mother had taken it when she moved out. The shadows of where it had been remained. His dad said they were going to get a new hutch, but they hadn't vet.

His dad said they were going to repaint the downstairs so the darkened places on the walls where the pictures had hung-the ones his mother took when she moved out-would be gone.

They hadn't done that, either.

Divorce casts so many shadows.

Tree and his brothers had helped her move out.

Their old dog, Bradley, kept going up to Tree's mother to get rubbed, and every time he did, she'd start to cry. Bradley tried to climb in the U-Haul truck, but Tree's father dragged him back into the house.

Tree's grandpa spoke for everyone: "My God, Jan, I'm going to miss you like crazy."

It was like a sci-fi movie where someone is there one minute, gone the next.


Curtis said he'd seen the breakup coming.

Larry knew Mom was going to leave Dad, too.

Tree sure hadn't. It was like watching floodwaters burst through a dam he'd always expected to hold.

Tree tried to understand how his parents went from seeming okay, but kind of bored and crabby, to living in different houses.

They'd waited to get divorced until Larry had gone to college.

Why hadn't they waited for Tree to go, too?

He stretched his long legs out. His muscles were sore, which meant he was growing more.

He wondered when he'd stop. He'd been wondering that for years.

In first grade when he sat on a stool for the class picture while the other kids stood around him.

In second grade when Mr. Cosgrove had to add another panel to the "How Tall Am I?" poster just for him.

In third grade when he got stuck in a desk and Mr. Cosgrove had to pry him out.

In fourth grade when he played a kind tree in the school play and no one had to sit on his shoulders to be the branches.

In fifth grade when he was Frankenstein at the Women's Auxiliary's House of Horrors and scared Timmy Bigelow's sister so bad, she peed in her pants.

In sixth grade when he was taller than his teachers and the principal.

And this year, seventh grade, when he just sat in the back at the table because he was too big for the desks.

The back table wasn't so bad.

Bradley padded over, put his paw in Tree's hand. Bradley understood when people needed comfort. The older and slower Bradley got, the more he seemed to know.

"Good dog."

Tree scratched Bradley's head, massaged his neck like the vet showed him.

"We've got to practice your trick."

Tree walked into the kitchen, Bradley followed. Tree got out a large dog biscuit from the canister.

"Bradley, sit."

Bradley sat.

"Good dog."

Tree got the picture he'd drawn of a sitting dog balancing a biscuit on his nose. He showed it to Bradley, who looked at it. Tree had invented this method of dog training.

"Okay, that's what you're going to do. Ready?"

Tree balanced the biscuit on Bradley's nose, put his hand out in the stay command. Bradley sat still, balancing it, as Tree timed him with his watch.

People think you can't teach an old dog new tricks, but an old dog is going to pay attention when you're doing something serious.

After forty-five seconds, the biscuit dropped, Bradley ate it.

"Good dog."

He made Bradley his dinner, put it on the floor. He made two serious submarine sandwiches with extra meat and cheese, put them in a bag.

A car horn outside.

"That's my ride, Bradley. I've got to go see Grandpa."

Bradley looked up, wagged his tail.

Seeing Grandpa was the best part of the week for just about anybody.


Excerpted from STAND TALL by JOAN BAUER Copyright © 2002 by Joan Bauer . Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

July 12, 1951 - "I was born at eleven A.M., a most reasonable time, my mother often said, and when the nurse put me in my mother's arms for the first time I had both a nasty case of the hiccups and no discernible forehead (it's since grown in). I've always believed in comic entrances.

"As I grew up in River Forest, Illinois in the 1950's I seem to remember an early fascination with things that were funny. I thought that people who could make other people laugh were terribly fortunate. While my friends made their career plans, declaring they would become doctors, nurses, and lawyers, inwardly, I knew that I wanted to be involved somehow in comedy. This, however, was a difficult concept to get across in first grade. But I had a mother with a great comic sense (she was a high school English teacher) and a grandmother who was a funny professional storytellerso I figured the right genes were in there somewhere, although I didn't always laugh at what my friends laughed at and they rarely giggled at my jokes. That, and the fact that I was overweight and very tall, all made me feel quite different when I was growing upa bit like a water buffalo at a tea party.

"My grandmother, who I called Nana, had the biggest influence on me creatively. She taught me the importance of stories and laughter. She never said, 'Now I'm going to tell you a funny story', she'd just tell a story, and the humor would naturally flow from it because of who she was and how she and her characters saw the world. She showed me the difference between derisive laughter that hurts others and laughter that comes from the heart. She showed me, too, that stories help us understand ourselves at a deep level. She was a keen observer of people.

"I kept a diary as a child, was always penning stories and poems. I played the flute heartily, taught myself the guitar, and wrote folk songs. For years I wanted to be a comedienne, then a comedy writer. I was a voracious reader, too, and can still remember the dark wood and the green leather chairs of the River Forest Public Library, can hear my shoes tapping on the stairs going down to the children's room, can feel my fingers sliding across rows and rows of books, looking through the card catalogues that seemed to house everything that anyone would ever need to know about in the entire world. My parents divorced when I was eight years old, and I was devastated at the loss of my father. I pull from that memory regularly as a writer. Every book I have written so far has dealt with complex father issues of one kind or another. My father was an alcoholic and the pain of that was a shadow that followed me for years. I attempted to address that pain in Rules of the Road. It was a very healing book for me. I didn't understand it at the time, but I was living out the theme that I try to carry into all of my writing: adversity, if we let it, will make us stronger.

"In my twenties, I had a successful career in sales and advertising with the Chicago Tribune, McGraw-Hill, and Parade Magazine. I met my husband Evan, a computer engineer, while I was on vacation. Our courtship was simple. He asked me to dance; I said no. We got married five months later in August, 1981. But I was not happy in advertising sales, and I had a few ulcers to prove it. With Evan's loving support, I decided to try my hand at professional writing. I wish I could say that everything started falling into place, but it was a slow, slow buildwriting newspaper and magazine articles for not much money. My daughter Jean was born in July of 82. She had the soul of a writer even as a baby. I can remember sitting at my typewriter (I didn't have a computer back then) writing away with Jean on a blanket on the floor next to me. If my writing was bad that day, I'd tear that page out of the typewriter and hand it to her. 'Bad paper,' I'd say and Jean would rip the paper in shreds with her little hands.

"I had moved from journalism to screenwriting when one of the biggest challenges of my life occurred. I was in a serious auto accident which injured my neck and back severely and required neurosurgery. It was a long road back to wholeness, but during that time I wrote Squashed, my first young adult novel. The humor in that story kept me going. Over the years, I have come to understand how deeply I need to laugh. It's like oxygen to me. My best times as a writer are when I'm working on a book and laughing while I'm writing. Then I know I've got something."

Joan's first novel, Squashed, won the Delacorte Prize for a First Young Adult Novel. Five novels for young adult readers have followed: Thwonk, Sticks, Rules of the Road (LA Times Book Prize and Golden Kite), Backwater and Hope was Here (Newbery Honor Medal).

Joan lives in Darien, CT with her husband and daughter.

Copyright © 2000 by Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers. All rights reserved.

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