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.
About the Author
Joan Bauer is the author of thirteen books for young readers.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). The Christopher Award was given to both Hope was Here and Close to Famous, which also received the Schneider Family Book Award. Joan is the recipient of numerous state awards voted by readers.
School Library Journal says, “When it comes to creating strong, independent, and funny characters, Bauer is in a class by herself.”
Joan Bauer lives in Brooklyn, New York. Visit her at www.joanbauer.com.
Read an Excerpt
By JOAN BAUER
speakCopyright © 2002 Joan Bauer
All right reserved.
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.
"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.
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.
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 TwoTree sat at the computer in his father's dining room.
Typed in heymom.com.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I LOVED THIS BOOK!! I read it in a day, the other reviewers are right, it was very hard to put down. the lesson of the book may be interpreted in different ways for other people. for me, the lesson was everybody in this world has a purpose. Well, that and other great lessons. Joan Bauer is my favorite author and i own five of her books (which were all great) and she did it again with this touching and heartwarming tale.
Stand Tall The main character Tree was twelve years old, too tall, big, and six feet three and a half inch and still growing. Tree doesn't fit in school and the basketball team. Coach Glummer expects Tree to act older then he is. He even isn't comfortable in his family. He starts to help people to cope himself. He helped the Vietnam vet who just had one leg .Tree had helped Sophie who was a new student that was teased by people, and his grandma who couldn't walk well. Starting to help grandma and helping her walk, Sophie gave Tree to advise him. Then tree, stands tall and got confidante in him. When a flood flushed his entire town and his house Tree now has the last test that confidence is put to the test. Author: Joan Bauer From Tatsumi Himoto
I thought this book was awesome! It touched upon serious issues but managed to make the reader fall in love with the story! The characters have a depth about them and the story takes you on a journey of self-discovery for the main character! This book was flawlessly written and tells a beautiful story!
Young people like to fit in. They're often confident if they are like their peers; they hate to stand out in a crowd. It's difficult not to stand out in any crowd when you're 12-years-old and stand 6 feet three inches tall. Plus, you're still growing. And, wouldn't you know? The rangy young fellow has a nickname because of his height - he's called Tree. He's heard all the jokes about being tall; he's heard most of them more than once. Unlike his brothers Tree doesn't excel at athletics even though everyone seems to expect him to be a basketball player. Being taller than everyone else is enough of a problem, but there's another one - Tree's parents were recently divorced so he must divide his time between his mom's new house and his old home where his father and grandfather live. His granddad, a Vietnam war vet, has a great deal to teach Tree about life and courage. Due to an old war wound Granddad has just had part of a leg amputated, yet he never stops encouraging Tree to accept life as it comes and encouraging him to be the best that he can be. Veteran voice performer Ron Mclarty brings a keen understanding to his reading of this story of hope and acceptance.
I remember reading this book in 7th grade lit class and it was the highlight of the year. Even the guys who never read got into the story and it was all together fantastic.
I love this book! I can totally relate to it. We are reading it in my English class.
Joan Bauer has a way of telling a story I have yet to find in another. The humor, characters, and plot, get you so wrapped up you cannot put it down. Brillant book that every middle schooler and anyone needs to read.
A book that my mom even read before me it was so good! A book that you don't want to put down ! A book that makes you realize that everyone is special in their own little(or tall*) way.
Author¿s Name: Joan Bauer Title: Stand Tall Genre: Young Adult Fiction Tree lives in a very tough world for a teenager, and his parents are divorced. In this book, Tree deals with everyday problems that show his strength and courage throughout the story. Joan Bauer shows the courage of Tree, and she shows how Tree is made fun of and deals with his parents divorce in a fantastic way. The world that Joan Bauer has created for Tree in this book shows the courage and strength that is hidden inside a person. Tree has to deal with many things that are going on, but he always finds a way to stay strong and look at the bright side. In the book, it reads, ¿Cats are good at keeping old dogs alive. Loss helps you reach for gain. Death helps you celebrate life. War helps you work for peace. A flood makes you glad you¿re still standing. And a tall boy can stop the wind so a candle of hope can burn bright.¿ This statement tells what the book is about and shows the honor and courage that a person can have. While reading this story, I made connections to myself and the world. When Tree had to deal with being made fun of and his parents divorce, I started to think about kids in our world that have problems in their lives with their families breaking up and their lives falling apart. He never gave up and always tried to look on the bright side of things, which is a good example for anyone reading this book. When reading this book, I had to question many parts of it, especially in the beginning of the story. One of my questions was thinking of how the author was going to connect everything together at the end of the book. This question helped me to stay focused through the book so I could find the answer. Although I used many ways of interpreting this book, questioning was the easiest for me. I also connected things in this book to my own life especially with Tree and his courage. This was a very well written book that showed courage, strength, and honor.
My sister had ti read tjis book for summer and said it was terrible. She said its just about this guy named tree who moans about everthing and she never wanted to read it. But thats just our oppinon. No offence btw
My grandaughter was given this book to read over the summer. One of her assignments was to find the words from a list the teacher gave them. Well there was one word infiltate that she could not find. So grandma decided to help her by reading the book. I thought it was very enjoyable. I never did find that word.
I enjoyed this book very much.The book Stand Tall was very inspiring and it sends a message to people saying things may go wrong sometimes, but it will be okay in the end. My favorite part in this book is at the end when Tree has to stand over the candle for the ministry intern because the wind kept blowing it out.'We light this candle of hope to remember that hope can always be with us.' My least favorite part in Stand Tall is when Tree thinks that Bradley, his dog, has to be put to sleep because he wasn't moving and was very old. I would recommend this book to someone that has a problem and needs to know that something might be wrong in their life, but if they believe in hope things will get better soon.