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*Tall Story* by Candy Gourlay - middle grades nonfiction book review
Tall Story
by Candy Gourlay
Ages 9-14 304 pages David Fickling Books February 2011 Hardcover    

Contemporary fiction appealing to both boys and girls, Tall Story is the saga of a sister and brother who are just getting to know one another.

Bernardo, age 16, has grown up in the rural, earthquake-prone village of San Andres, Philippines, with his aunt and uncle. His mother, a nurse, moved to London in order to make a living after Bernardo’s father died. Bernardo was not permitted to go with her because of immigration restrictions. His mother remarried and had one daughter, 13-year-old Andi.

Bernardo’s life in the Philippines is remarkable. As a small boy, he was often picked on by the neighborhood bully Gabriela, said to be the daughter of a witch. Both mother and daughter frightened and intimidated everyone in their town. Gabriela has a “magic” wishing stone, and using it, Bernardo’s wishes appear to come true – most alarming is his wish to grow taller.

When he turns 13, Bernardo begins to grow at an amazing rate; by the time he is 16, he is 8 feet tall. The villagers in San Andres compare Bernardo to a mythical giant from long ago who saved the village. Bernardo is saving their village, he is credited with Gabriela’s death from a bite by a rabid dog, and ever since he has been tall, the village hasn’t experienced any earthquakes.

Andi is a basketball fanatic struggling as the family moves into a larger home and she transfers to a new school. Although she is short, she is an exceptional basketball player who never misses her shot. Her dream is to become the point guard on her high school basketball team, but her new school only has a boys’ team. She ends up practicing with the boys’ team, earning their respect - but not a place on the team.

When Bernardo is finally granted permission to move to London, everyone is excited. After a long plane flight, Bernardo has a seizure and must be hospitalized. They discover a tumor near his pituitary gland, which is responsible for his enormous size.

As the story progresses, Bernardo and Andi grow closer, although their lives are still very much separate. The boys on the basketball team meet Bernardo and want him on their team. Soon after Bernardo arrives in London, there is a terrible earthquake in the Philippines. Once again, Bernardo is responsible for the safety of his village, and the wishing stone once again plays a part in his life.

Readers will find Tall Story a unique experience. Alternating chapters reveal both Andi and Bernardo’s perspectives on their changing lives. The ending is exciting and unpredictable; both teens become heroes in their own worlds. Weaving the superstitions of the village with reality, questions of a greater power and answered prayers linger.

With this novel ritten by a British author, American children will expand their knowledge of the English language and, perhaps, start to consider how difficult it is for immigrants like Bernardo, who speaks Tagalog, to move to a new country and adapt to a whole new way of living.
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  Kristine Wildner/2011 for curled up with a good kid's book  

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