Stand Straight, Ella Kate, written by Kate Klise and illustrated by M. Sarah Klise, is a nominee for the 2012-13 South Carolina Picture Book Award. It tells the story of Ella Kate Ewing, a woman who grew to a height of 8 feet, 4 inches tall.
Ella Kate was born in 1872, and her life started fairly normally. But then she began to grow. She grew so much that people didn’t know what to make of her. Her clothes and her school desk had to be specially made. People made fun of her because she was so tall. Even when people were being rude and disrespectful, Ella Kate’s parents always urged her to “stand straight” and be proud of herself.
One day, a man came to Ella Kate and asked if she’d like to be part of a museum exhibit. Ella Kate agreed, and her journey across the world began. At a time when women had few real rights, Ella Kate was making money and seeing the world…all because she was super tall! She did things that people back home never had the opportunity to do, and, even though some gawkers were still mean, Ella Kate learned to stand straight and be proud of who she was, where she’d been, and all that she’d accomplished.
Stand Straight, Ella Kate is a great book for teaching kids (and adults) about accepting and making the most of differences. I would pair this book with others on overcoming bullying and adversity.
The book’s afterword provides more information about Ella Kate’s life, including an actual photo of Ella Kate. This could serve as a springboard to learn more about Ella Kate Ewing.