There are big miracles, and there are small ones. Small miracles are things like getting to play in a really important game, when you shouldn’t be allowed. Big miracles, well, big miracles are big. They can be life or death big, for one person, or even a whole village. Candy Gourlay’s Tall Story deals with miracles, both big and small, and the ties that bind a family together, even from across the world.
Bernardo is tall. Andi is not. Bernardo lives in a small village in the Philippines. Andi lives in a small (postage stamp small) apartment in London with her parents. They may lead very different lives, but they have something in common: their mother. They also have something else in common: a love of basketball. Bernardo loves the game and famous players like Michael Jordan, but can’t play very much, because though he is very, very tall (eight feet!), his long limbs and big feet hinder his coordination and prevent him from running very fast. Andi is often told (occasionally by her mother) that she cannot play basketball because she is too short. This hardly stops her; in fact, she is very good. She never misses a shot. Never.Misses. She too is a fan of Michael Jordan. The first miracle hits their lives when Andi’s family finally gets the house they’ve been wanting for so long. Fast on its heels comes another miracle: Bernardo is finally allowed to come to the United Kingdom to live with his mother and step-father.
But miracles come with a cost. In return for a new house, Andi must give up her hard-earned place on her school’s basketball team, and finds that her new school doesn’t allow girls to play. And Bernardo leaves behind family and friends who love him, and a village myth that believes his presence is all that’s keeping the devastating earthquakes away. Even the strange miracle of Bernardo’s great height comes with an alarming medical price. As brother and sister get to know each other and how much they have in common, they learn about wishes and real miracles, and find that family might be the biggest miracle of them all.
Gourlay’s title, Tall Story, obviously refers to Bernardo’s eight foot tall frame, but elements of the story have a fable-ish quality to them, so it functions as a tall tale as well. And what a tale she has told. Both the mundane and the magical work so well together, told in Andi’s and Bernardo’s alternating voices, that the book reads like a dream. I practically finished it in one sitting. I was just as taken with Andi’s fierce moxie as with Bernardo’s gentle humility. Gourlay has created very memorable characters, not only in our two narrative voices, but in their parents and caregivers, and especially Bernardo’s friend Jabby. I enjoyed spending time in their world. I look forward to seeing what Ms. Gourlay has coming for us next. If Tall Story is any indication, it will be a delight to read.
Tall Story by Candy Gourlay
2011, David Fickling Books
2011, David Fickling Books