Bauer, Joan. Stand Tall. New York: Speak, 2002.
In the days leading up to Christmas and after, Tree struggles to find his place in a world he no longer recognizes. As the youngest child of newly divorced parents, he wonders what went wrong. Every week he lives in one house or the other. His grandfather has recently had a leg amputated (from an old war wound), so Tree also has to help care for his recovering grandparent. These are just his problems on the home front. He doesn't fit in at school either. Tree is not his real name. It's a nickname. Tree is 12 years old. He measures 6 foot 3 inches in height. And he's not done growing. Tree finds that he's out of place both emotionally and physically. Tree's new friend Sophie asks him if he has a motto. In the course of the story, Tree finds that his motto is "stand tall." He can't change his height, so he might as well take pride in it.
What I thought: I liked this book. It was an unexpected Christmas story. Nothing on the cover or the blurb indicates that it takes place at Christmas. I always enjoy Joan Bauer's books. This one was a bit different from her books that have female protagonists (Hope Was Here, Rules of the Road, Squashed, and Backwater). In those books, the protagonists are the first-person narrators. Bauer tells Stand Tall in third person. (I wonder if female readers prefer first person narration while boy readers prefer third person narration.) This book is also for a slightly younger audience than Bauer's other books. I think Stand Tall will have wide appeal because it deals with a multitude of issues: divorce, differences, natural disasters, pets, friends, family, and the Vietnam War (from a survivor's point-of-view).