If you know a child who feels like they just don’t fit in (that’s all of them at some point, right?), then direct them to a recently published book by sisters and collaborators, Sarah and Kate Klise. Stand Straight, Ella Kate is the true story of Ella Kate Ewing who grew to be more than eight feel tall. This picture book biography, told from Ella Kate’s point of view, tells the story of how she began to grow – and grow – at the age of seven. “Mama couldn’t sew dresses fast enough to keep up,” says the narrator. By the time she was thirteen, Ella Kate was almost six feet tall, and people in her Missouri hometown were calling her a freak.
Eventually, Ella Kate and her parents go to Chicago where she begins to make money by appearing in a museum as the Tallest Lady on Earth. There are some funny stories about her travels and some awkward moments as well. As Ella Kate learns to “rise above” her challenge, the illustrations show a woman realizing her place in the world, however different her experience of it may be.
This is definitely a book that I’ll keep close at hand during the school year. Sometimes a 5th or 6th grade girl will shoot up seemingly over night. You can almost see them trying to “fit” into their new body. At that point, Ella Kate’s story might come in handy – a reminder that feeling different is a universal experience.