Book review by
Darienne Stewart, Common Sense Media
Short Book Poster Image
Small girl grows inside in funny, inspiring theater tale.

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The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational value

Behind-the-scenes look at the work that goes into producing a play. References to author L. Frank Baum, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, and playwright August Wilson. Discussion of idioms' origins and meaning.

Positive messages

Being all in is what's most important, particularly when teamwork is involved. When you get involved in activities, one thing leads to another and new doors open. Something might seem awful one day but wonderful the next. People are often judged before they're ready. Expressing gratitude can be powerful. Self-criticism can be constructive, but at a certain point it's more helpful to set that aside and find the joy in what you're doing. It's important to confront unfairness toward others. People can surprise you in all sorts of ways.

Positive role models & representations

Julia has a strong moral compass and capacity for self-reflection. She recognizes, absorbs, processes, and applies lessons learned in everyday encounters. Julia is honest, even tucking into her scrapbook a memento from the time she hurt a classmate to ensure a complete record. And she's thoughtfully observant, noticing how other people are treated and considering how they might view the world. The adults involved in the theater production encourage and support her, both onstage and off. Olive is particularly kind to Julia, and she and the play director have a frank discussion about discrimination for size, race, gender, and age.

Violence & scariness

Adult is injured in a fall. Julia recounts time she thoughtlessly injured a classmate.


Adult uses the expression "helluva."

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Short is a charming, exuberant story about a young girl discovering her potential for greatness. Author Holly Goldberg Sloan (Counting by 7s) revisits the theme of grief but with a light touch -- her heroine is trying to find happiness after the death of her dog. The narrator is authentic, with endearing enthusiasm and a realistic touch of occasional sourness. The adults around her form a warm network of support, helping to change the way she views herself. An adult character smokes, and a child has a sip of champagne at a celebration. One character briefly mentions the death of a grown child, and there are hints of mature adult relationships.

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What's the story?

Julia's grandma tells her she may be SHORT, but she's tough like a terrier, yet Julia isn’t so sure. Facing a summer without her friends and grieving her beloved dog, Julia reluctantly tries out for a part in The Wizard of Oz even though she knows she isn't the talented one in the family. To her surprise, she's cast as a Munchkin. The play opens up a new world for Julia, who finds herself constantly challenged -- and loving it. She discovers a talented and generous neighbor with a fascinating background, befriends a woman who's as small as she is, and grows to revere the play's director. Every day brings a new lesson, and by summer's end, Julia feels she's learned to fly.

Is it any good?

Sweet, smart, and laugh-out-loud funny, this delightful novel by Holly Goldberg Sloan is a wonderful read, bubbling with discovery and excitement and embracing the bittersweet in life. Short is a sure delight for theater kids, but it will also resonate with readers who aren't yet sure what their "thing" is or if they even have a thing.

Julia's stream-of-consciousness narration sidetracks into musings on curious idioms, gentle self-chiding for her less charitable thoughts, and precociously somber reminders of the lessons she's learning in her summer theater experience. She's naive enough to not always understand exactly why the adults around her behave the way they do, particularly when it comes to romantic entanglements, but she has the maturity to understand how they're feeling. The strong, caring adult characters are just as appealing as young Julia, whose joyful spirit carries the story.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Julia shifts from apprehension and self-doubt to exhilaration when she tries new things in Short. Do you get nervous trying new things? When have you been surprised to discover you liked something you thought you'd hate?

  • How is Julia's story similar to Dorothy's in The Wizard of Oz? What lessons do both girls learn?

  • Julia puzzles over idioms. What idioms are you curious about? How can you find out what they mean or how they came into being?

Book details

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For kids who love coming-of-age stories and strong girls

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