What is a summary for Stand Tall by Joan Bauer?

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Karyth Cara | College Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

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From the beginning conversation with the school's administrative assistant, Mrs. Pierce, we learn that a twelve-year-old boy named Sam, but called Tree, has two different homes and that it causes him great pain and sorrow (and a bit of anger when brought up curtly by a school administrative assistant verbally throwing out references to forms C and D and to "multi-residence sheets"). Sam, the Tree, is in a terrible bind, torn between two homes, when just last year he was happy at one home.
"And where is home this week?" ...
   [Tree's] brain blistered.
   "Your parents didn't fill out the multi-residence sheet ...."
   He handed her the monthlong schedule his mother had given him--color-coordinated for each week (yellow ... [and] blue...).
   "If your parents are co-custodians, then that's a different form. ... [And] the invoice for school trips ... can be put on this form--form C--which you can to attach to form D."
In a merciless environment, Tree is overwhelmed by the changes in his home-life even though he physically overwhelms those who are around him: "[Mrs. Pierce] gazed up at him, way up. He bent his knees to seem shorter." Given the nickname of Tree in fourth grade, now in seventh grade, Tree is 6 feet, 3 and-a-half inches tall: His is a daunting physical body size trapped in a daunting mental and social situation.
In his encounter with Mrs. Pierce, we learn that when he lives at his father's house, he also lives with his paternal grandfather who is a veteran of the Vietnam War. After Tree endures the verbal assault from the "school administrative assistant," he goes to his favorite white oak (the one comfort he has for his humiliating nickname) and imitates a tree as he has seen a pantomimist do in New York City (to make sure we know this not a mental breakdown, neighbors come by and he entertains them with a wink, making the little girl giggle). A neighbor-woman of his, Mrs. Clitter, leads the narrator to tell us that Tree's grandfather has endured a lower leg amputation just two weeks prior: "You tell [that grandfather of yours] I'm going to do everything I know to do to help him." An important thematic message of the story is one that Grandpa teaches when he says to Tree that to fix a thing "You've got to take a thing apart to see what it's made of." It's Tree's sorrow that Grandpa hasn't been able to apply that motto to his parents' marriage and fix that.

Tree took Grandpa's lesson and motto to heart and dug into finding out all he could about trees. In this way, through accumulated knowledge, he turned the "Tree" humiliation around and discovered that trees are pretty great for everybody. They protect and are "strong and steady" and are endowed with "great expectations." His personal load is lifted somewhat by this discovery, which is good because he still has two brothers away at separate colleges to worry about who are struggling through the divorce under their own darkening shadows: "Divorce casts so many shadows." In addition to a harsh school administrative assistant, a suffering grandfather, a crying mother, two brothers away from home, a dog named Bradley being trained by benefit of photographic illustrations, Tree's muscles are aching again indicating yet another growth spurt.

As Tree helps Grandpa with his physical therapy, Coach Glummer causes Tree grief by stopping in front of him, gazing way up and saying, "There's gold in you, kid," to which Tree replies that there really is not; Tree is not talented athletically. Glummer introduces one of Tree's ongoing conflicts, especially because of his brothers' earlier sports glories. Nonetheless, Tree's disintegrating existence is broken up by the laughter and the antics he and his friend, Sully, get into.

In complement to Tree and Sully tearing Tree's dad's house apart with their "experiment," Sophie, a new girl at school, enters Tree's life when he finds her in the cafeteria "looking at her lunch and, it seemed to Tree, trying not to cry." It's clear at the start that Sophie has some unusual traits as, while talking, she "was moving her head back and forth in a kind of rocking motion." Nonetheless, it is Sophie who introduces Tree to the idea that he has "to know what [he's] about" by having a motto to live by.

When a river that "decides to flood its banks" brings a dangerous flood to town, leaving them no time to claim belongings, Tree observes, with Grandpa's help, the symbolic association between floods, war and family war (divorce): "flood is like a war ... because it can take so much with it," as Grandpa sadly said. Following the flood--which compelled Tree to start thinking of important contemporary issues, like "hazardous waste"--the "giant oak began to bud," as did Tree, "days after the flood."

Surviving the ravages of flood and divorce and helping out through Grandpa's struggles, Tree found his equanimity, peace and self-understanding with the help of challenging family, friends and a strangely motto-driven girl named Sophie (from the Greek sophía meaning "wisdom"). Tree finds that, in the end, a candle of hope can burn for his splintered family, especially since his mother has his "dank and damp" father as a wet guest in her 4th floor walk-up apartment after the flood.

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mrs4sholes | In Training Educator

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As always with overly tall people, more is expected of them than is sometimes possible. 6-foot, 3-inch "and still growing" Sam -- aptly nicknamed Tree -- is only 12 years old. Sam is intelligent and relatively mature, and freely admits his shortcomings in sports, but still his teachers expect higher levels than average and coaches expect a team captain. Add to that the bold new girl at school, his aging dog, and his recently divorced parents, and he has a year at school no one would envy. 

But this is the year where Sam learns how to stand to his fullest, inside and out. He draws his strength from helping others: Sophie, the new girl who has trouble of her own, and his grandpa, learning to walk again, and when crisis hits, he finds the courage to stand tall, just as he is.

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mrsdillard | In Training Educator

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Stand Tall by Joan Bauer is a novel following the struggles and triumphs of a 12-year-old boy known as Tree.  While standing six feet, three and a half inches tall, Tree is physically quite grown, but struggling to grow emotionally. Due to his height, teachers and coaches expect a lot from Tree, despite his actual age.  To add to that stress, Tree's parents have gone through a recent divorce, leaving him the victim of a joint custody arrangement. 

Tree feels extreme pressure to help hold his family together during this trying time.  He helps to care for his Vietnam vet grandfather with a recently amputated leg, and also worries about not only his parents, but his two brothers in college, and his aging dog Bradley.  Between the pressure from adults to act and perform older than his age, and because of all the stresses at home, Tree is left feeling small and defeated.  He feels the struggle of trying to thrive, while standing on shaky ground. 

That's when Tree meets Sophie, the new girl at school.  He begins developing a friendship with her. This new friendship, along with his growing relationship with his grandfather, cause an inner confidence to grow inside of Tree.  Tree's blossoming relationships with both Sophie and his grandfather give him the ability to confidently stand up tall against life, no matter what it throws at him.  Readers go on the journey of watching a transformed Tree take on many challenges with courage, including a natural disaster, and as this young boy now stands tall not only physically, but also metaphorically.

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gsenviro | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Stand Tall is the tale of Tree (actual name Sam) who at twelve years of age stands tall at six feet and three and a half inches. He is the tallest student in his school and is struggling to live up to everyone's expectations. The school coaches expect him to excel in sports, even though he struggles at sports, even basketball. He is awkward, laughed at and lacks the courage to stand up to people. He has two college-going brothers, divorced parents, a loving grandfather (a Vietnam vet who recently had his leg amputated) and a very old dog, Bradley. 

Things change when he meets the new girl, Sophie, who inspires him to stand up to others (at home, at school and at basketball). Drawing courage from this new friendship and from his grandfather and Bradley, Tree find purpose in his life and proves that he has the courage to match his size when a natural disaster strikes.

It is a story many young people can draw inspiration from. 

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mkcapen1 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

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Stand-Tall is the story of a boy named Tree who has two older brothers and lives with his father and grandfather.  The boy is nicknamed Tree because he towers above other children his age.  He is exceptionally tall.  Tree is coping with being a middle school student and the recent divorce of his parents.  His grandfather is his best friend.  He had been injured during the Vietnam War and has had problems with his leg ever since.  He finally has to have it amputated.

None of the children like to visit their mother because she lives in an apartment.  Tree is the only one who has to visit her as the others are away at college.  His brothers also overshadow him because they are great at sports.   Tree has to take dance lessons as a school requirement and as a result acquires a new friend.

Tree assists his grandfather in coming to terms with his disability and the memory of the war and his grandfather helps Tree to learn confidence in himself. 

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tmadison123 | eNotes Newbie

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The main character in Stand Tall is Sam, a six foot three inch tall 7th grader. A lot of people tease him and they call him Tree because of his height. Tree isn’t athletic, like his two older brothers, but he is trying to play basketball. He practices with his brothers. Tree’s parents are divorced and he gets stressed by going back and forth between houses. Adding on to all of that, he has an old dog that is near death, but Tree has faith. Tree spends a lot of time with his grandfather who is a humorous, tough Vietnam Veteran. The grandfather has just gotten his leg amputated and is in therapy. Tree helps his grandfather fix and invent objects. Tree, an unusually tall seventh grader, is learning how to live with his parent’s new divorce. Tree wishes he could follow in his brother’s footsteps by being a great athlete, but Tree has just never been good at sports. Instead, Tree decides to focus on other things like helping others in times of need, such as his grandpa with his new prosthetic leg. When a flood hits Tree’s town and his house gets ruined, he thinks of all the positive things and focuses on those to get them through the tough times. At school, Tree meets an 8th grade girl named Sophie, and they become friends. Sophie tries to get Tree to take pride in himself. This book, "Stand Tall," is an uplifting story of a boy's stressful life and his way of getting through it all. The book did a good job at illustrating the struggles of divorce and bullying for a young boy. This book deals with friendship, family relations, divorce (what kids really feel about it and how lame the parents can be sometimes in efforts to smooth things over).
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kandi125 | High School Teacher | eNotes Newbie

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Stand Tall by Joan Bauer is about a boy named Sam. But, he is nicknamed Tree because he towers over everyone at Eleanor Roosevelt Middle School due to his great height. For a middle school seventh-grader, he is nearly six feet four inches tall and still growing. Yet he fails at sports, even basketball much to the displeasure of everyone especially the coaches. And this does not help the fact that he already does not fit in at school. 

At home, he is not quite comfortable either because of his parents' divorce. But, his friendship with his Granpa, a Vietnam vet whose was leg amputated, and the teased, new girl at school named Sophie; helps him to cope. Add with the support of his Grandpa and the encouraging advice from Sophie, Tree is able to stand tall despite his past circumstances.


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