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Bertha Speaks Out

2 Ratings: 4.5
A book by Fran Lewis

About the book ... Growing up was difficult for me being overweight, too quiet and really afraid to speak out in order to defend myself. In this book Bertha learns that she needs to let her voice be heard and no longer allows herself to be the scapegoat. … see full wiki

Tags: Books
Author: Fran Lewis
Publisher: Xlibris Corp
1 review about Bertha Speaks Out

Stories for Children Magazine 5 Star Review

  • Jul 25, 2009
REVIEWED BY: Wayne S. Walker, reviewer with Stories for Children Magazine

How would you react if it seemed that everyone--parents, siblings, schoolmates, teachers, and many others--picked on you, made fun of you, and generally treated you with disrespect when you were a child? Bertha, the overweight girl who was constantly being humiliated and embarrassed in Fran Lewis's My Name Is Bertha, returns to tell us more about her problems and how she learns to cope with them now that she has gone from elementary to middle school. The seven stories told by Bertha in this book talk about an accident at camp involving a lot of money, playing dodgeball (or "kill") in gym class, a trip to her uncle's weight loss camp where overweight kids can try to lose weight, another adventure at camp involving frogs and skunks, having a test misgraded at 98% when her mother is expecting a perfect score, being accused of cheating on a paper that she writes for a contest, and finally her grandmother's diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease.

While reading this book, I will admit that sometimes I was a little frustrated with Bertha's behavior, but it is important to consider what Bertha is going through. For example, on one occasion, Bertha becomes very upset, locking herself in her room, stomping on the floor, and throwing things around. Often, she is very blunt. However, Fran says that Bertha doesn't intend to be mean or rude. But as an educator Fran knows that kids do blurt out their true feelings and do not always express themselves in the right way. Again, I understand that this book is supposed to be based upon real events. I think that most of us realize that there are situations in life where people are not fair, and children's words may be the result of frustration and always being a scapegoat. When I first read the book, I noticed that while it is not written as a novel with a plot but as a series of stories, it might have been a little easier to follow by having the incidents arranged in some kind of chronological order. However, Fran told me that the arrangement of the stories was not her doing but the publisher's.

Having said that, I still find myself drawn to Bertha and her troubles because I know, based on my memories of being a child, that both kids and adults can be mean and disrespectful to children with no good reason. Bertha herself is certainly not perfect, but she understands her own weaknesses and faults and tries to learn from them. Concerning her weight problem she says, "But I really can't blame anyone but myself. I have to believe in myself." And after the event that has led to the temper tantrum, she writes, "I probably could have told the teacher how I felt about her in a better way." All of us have undoubtedly made mistakes, so we just have to learn how to overcome them and to do better the next time. Both children and adults can come to understand the kinds of pressures that Bertha is facing and also to appreciate the good advice that she offers on how to solve or avoid problems based on her experiences. Author Fran Lewis is a longtime educator in New York Public Schools and writes as one who knows whereof she speaks. And the description of Bertha's grandmother with dementia is especially poignant and sympathetic.

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