The Giant of Seville

One of the things I love about Homeschool Share is that there is so much good stuff that sometimes I stumble across a book I’ve never even heard of before! This summer I was doing some planning and found The Giant of Seville: A “Tall” Tale Based on a True Story. This is such a sweet book that I had to share it with you!

The Giant of Seville, by Dan Andreasen, is based on the true story of Martin Van Buren Bates, who at 28 years old reached his full height of seven feet, eleven and a half inches and weighed 525 pounds. After serving in the Civil War, Bates joined the circus and was touted as “The World’s Tallest Man.” While traveling with the circus, Bates met his future wife, Anna, who herself was almost eight feet tall. Together they toured the world until it was time to find a place to settle down and spend their retirement, which is where the story begins.

Bates arrives in Seville, Ohio on a train, with his head and shoulders poking out of the window to make room for the rest of his body inside the car. Of course everyone notices his size, and everyone is curious to see what this giant will do. His first stop is Mrs. Crawley’s boardinghouse, where she kindly rents him a room without a single mention of his size. She and the townspeople set about making Bates feel right at home, from making a small fire outside the bedroom window to warm his feet—which are sticking outside due to his unusual length—to whipping up four gallons of pancake batter to fill him up at breakfast. They even hold a dance so Bates can meet everyone. At the dance, though, Bates’s enthusiasm has some disastrous consequences and he is sure that no one will want him to stay in town anymore. Much to his surprise, though, the townspeople decide to build a giant home for Bates and Anna to live in.

In a world where we constantly hear and read stories about people judging each other or hurting each other because of their differences, it’s so nice to read a true story where everyone is courteous and kind and willing to go out of their way to help others feel welcome. The Giant of Seville is a wonderful story to read with your children and discuss how we should treat others kindly, even when there may be a cost for us to do so. The story doesn’t come across as preachy, though; it’s just a sweet, simple story about a town coming together to make someone feel welcome—physically and emotionally.

Andreasen’s pictures are lovely, too. They have an old-fashioned feel that complements the setting wonderfully and my children wanted to look over each picture carefully when I finished reading the page. The book concludes with an author’s note about Bates and Andreasen includes a photograph of Martin and Anna Bates next to an average-sized man, so you can really see how much of a difference there was in size!

This is a book that both my nine year old son and four year old daughter enjoyed, so even if you choose not to use the unit from Homeschool Share, this would be a great read aloud for the whole family. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

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