by Holly Goldberg Sloan
I teach in a town where community theater is part of its fabric, so reading Short by Holly Goldberg Sloan as a read aloud seemed like the natural thing to do. My fifth graders loved everything about Julia Marks! At the beginning of the book Julia is on summer vacation feeling a little lost. Her friends are away for the summer and she is really missing her dog Ramon. Much to her chagrin, she ends up being in the cast of the local theater’s production of The Wizard of Oz. This experience leads her to learn many things about herself, including the lesson that friends can come in all shapes and sizes—and ages.
- Fifth graders loved the humor in this book! Julia is really trying to figure out her place in the world, and her misunderstandings had students giggling every day.
- Students noticed that Julia was trying to figure out what her “thing” was, just like the main character Georgie in The Thing About Georgie by Lisa Graff.
- Throughout the book Julia also grapples with the death of her dog Ramon, and ultimately has the deep realization that “we are all just passing away…The old us is a new us every day, and we have to accept that we will have a beginning and a middle and an end.” With these words, Sloan makes the heavy topic of death and dying manageable for kids to take in and ponder.
- As we were reading this novel, my students made connections between Julia and the main character in Clayton Byrd Goes Underground by Rita Garcia Williams because Clayton also feels a profound sense of loss after someone important to him dies.
Short was mostly funny but there were some serious parts in it too. In the beginning Julia talks a lot about her dog Ramon. Being in the play distracted her from how much she missed her dog. She makes some new friends that end up being really important to her. My favorite part is at the end when Julia says good-bye to Sean Barr and gives him something that is very special to her. I won’t tell you what it is because I don’t want to spoil it for you.