SHORT by Holly Goldberg Sloan Review

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Sloan, Holly Goldberg . Short. Dial/Penguin Random House, 2017. 304p. $16.99. 978-0-399-18621-9.

Julia is the middle child in her family and so small she can crawl through the doggie door to get into her house. Her height is a sore spot for her. As she grieves the loss of the one thing she cared about—her dog, Ramon—she cannot find anything else that interests her. The summer looms ahead with nothing to do until her mother insists that she and her brother Randy try out for a community theatre production of The Wizard of Oz. Julia does not want to be in the play, but when she and Randy are chosen as a munchkin and the mayor, respectively, she perks up. Julia partners with Olive, a professional actress exactly the same size as Julia, and begins to realize that her stature is not everything. Her confidence soars when she is chosen as the munchkin lead dancer and as the only student winged monkey.

The funny narration is in Julia’s rambling, middle-school voice which allows readers to experience her emotions and maturation with her. She befriends Mrs. Chang, her neighbor and a fabulous costume designer who becomes a winged monkey in the play at age seventy-six.  Readers will cheer for Julia as she learns that butterflies are not actually in your stomach, and saying thank you can be very powerful. Whether making friends of all ages, learning from a famous director how to be a leader onstage, or becoming less self-centered, Julia most of all learns that all good things must come to an end. As she says, though, she has grown from her experience in the play “not on the outside, but on the inside.” This is highly recommended for middle school readers.—Rachel Axelrod.