Short by Holly Goldberg Sloan is a middle grade examination of what it means to be short. It opens with Julia Marks complaining about being the shortest person in her family. She's the one who has to sit in the middle back seat. She's the one who can't reach things off of shelves. And on and on.
She also doesn't feel like dealing with life or anything really because she misses her dog, Ramon. He lived out his life and died earlier in the year. Julia was hit the hardest by his death and she's still grieving.
It's an opening I can relate to. I'm not short, exactly. Technically I'm average. But I'm the shortest one in my family. That changed as my grandmother aged and the loss of bone density and spine compression lost her enough inches to end up my height. She resented being as short as I am naturally. Like Julia, I learned to come to terms with my height.
For Julia, the process begins over summer when her parents enroll her and her younger brother into a drama camp where the kids will be the Munchkins at the community college performance of The Wizard of Oz. Julia, besides being short also stutters when she's nervous. Being in a musical is the last thing she wants to do this summer.
And then she meets Shawn Barr, the man directing the play. He's short. He's shorter than she is. But he's self confident. He's in control. He inspires respect. Julia is inspired enough to earn two roles — Munchkin and Winged Monkey.
Like Counting by 7s, Sloan populates her book with memorable and diverse characters and then brings them together by circumstance. I loved watching how Julia expands her world by finding new talents in herself and in the people around her.
I happened to listen to the audio book, read by Tara Sands. Her voice is now how I think of Julia Marks when I remember the book. Sands gives Julia an upbeat voice similar to either Sadie or Peridot from Steven Universe. Peridot, especially, is a short character who uses technology to expand her height and her reach — so it's easy to start by picturing her instead of a 12 year old human girl. That said, I found that I had to listen to the novel either when I was alone or with headphones because I grew tired of the Peridot jokes.