Paul, Big, and Small by David Glen Robb

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Book Review of Paul, Big, and Small by David Glen Robb

I haven’t ever tried rock climbing. I’ve climbed over rocks while hiking, does that count? I’ve ridden over rocks while mountain biking. Does that count? I haven’t ever tried actual rock climbing. It scares me! I have rappelled, though. I went rappelling in high school with a leadership team I was on. We went to this army base near our home and they had a really tall wall that you could rappel down. We didn’t climb it; we climbed up a ladder, but that was scary enough. Then I got to rappel down an actual rock face a few years ago when I went with the youth in my church. It was fun, but scary. I admire people that rock climb because I think it takes a lot of courage and strength. I’ve never read a book about it either, so it was fun to read about Paul and how he uses rock climbing as a stress reliever. I really liked PAUL, BIG, and SMALL by David Glen Robb. I hope you enjoy my review!


“Paul Adams has always been short, but he’s an excellent rock climber. And his small size means he can hide from the bullies that prowl the halls of his high school.

Top on his list of “People to Avoid” are Conor, from his Language Arts class, Hunter, who hangs around the climbing gym, and Lily Small, who happens to be the tallest girl in school. But he might be able to be friends with a new kid from Hawaii who insists that everyone call him “Big.” He’s got a way of bringing everyone into his circle and finding the beauty in even the worst of situations.

When the three of them—Paul, Big, and Small—are assigned to the same group project, they form an unlikely friendship. And Paul realizes that maybe Lily isn’t so bad after all. He might even actually like her. And maybe even more than like her.

Paul and Lily team up for a rock-climbing competition, but when Lily is diagnosed with leukemia, Paul ends up with Conor on his team. And when Paul learns that Conor is dealing with bullies of his own—as well as some deep emotional pain—he realizes that the bullying in his school has got to stop.

Paul, Big, and Small is about the turbulent, emotional lives of young adults who are struggling with life’s challenges openly and sometimes in secret.”

My Book Review:

Wow. What a great story! Life in high school can be difficult, especially for anyone who is different in any way.  If you’re too tall, too short, weigh too much, too smart, not very smart, or have any other distinguishing differences, you could be the victim of bullying or harassment. Paul is a great kid. His distinguishing difference is his height. He’s on the too short side of things. I can definitely empathize with Paul on that one. Big is an amazing kid. He’s from Hawaii, and his distinguishing characteristic is that he’s very big. Lily Small seems big and scary at first, but she has a soft center. Her distinguishing characteristic is that she’s very tall and she’s black. Her parents adopted her from Africa.

These three high school students come together to work on a school project, and it turns into genuine friendship. I love all three of these characters. Seriously. Paul has no self confidence at school. He’s constantly picked on and bullied for his height. Big is the best. Wow! I love how he takes the time to stop and feel and hear the rain in a run-down, cement outside area at the school. I love the happiness he spreads. Lily comes across as big and scary—that is until you get to know her. It turns out that she, like Paul and Big, gets picked on. Her positive attitude and genuine love for people make her a fabulous friend and character.

All of the characters in this book are well written, well developed, realistic, and just jump off the page. Paul, Big, and Lily (her last name is Small) have to be some of my all-time favorite characters. That’s saying something. Big, especially. I love, love, love how he takes an impending conflict and turns it around by spreading love and happiness. The way he enjoys the little things like a dandelion growing out of a crack in the cement or an ant carrying a chip along the floor amazes me. I have a lot to learn from Big. He’s my favorite character in the book, and I want him to be my friend.

I love the way this book tackles tough issues. High school comes with a lot of issues, and this book deals with a lot of them in such an amazing way. You’ve got many different characters, and you get to see their different sides. You get to see little pieces of what makes them them. Why does this kid bully other kids? What makes this kid who he is? What experiences does she have that have made her who she is today? I always tell my kids to be nice to everyone because you never know what someone is going through or dealing with, and this book emphasizes this in an amazing way.

Mental illness, bullying, suicide, physical illness, and the death of a loved one are just a few of the tough issues tackled in this book. Although it does focus on these hard things, it also focuses on friendship, love, kindness, empathy, and seeing the good in people. I love how you get to see the other side of these rough characters—the “at home” side that you rarely get the chance to see. What causes this person to act the way he does? The book focuses on learning about people and their circumstances, and not just judging them for their actions. It focuses on loving them and being kind to them despite their negative actions or poor behavior.

I loved this book! It is needed today. So needed. It teaches kids that there are outs. If you don’t like rock climbing then you can run, bike, hike, walk, dance, sew, color, or whatever you enjoy. Find something that calms you down, helps you breathe, and puts you out in nature. Use this as an outlet for your stress, pain, anger, and heartache. Don’t take it out on others because that strategy doesn’t help anyone. Hurting others doesn’t heal you. Learn to be the good! Learn to be the ray of sunshine in someone else’s life. Serve others. Help others. Put your own trials aside and help a friend (or an enemy). This is what brings happiness and helps heal your own pain.

I could go on and on. I love this book so much! I love the characters and the lessons the story teaches. I’m turning it over to my kids and making them read it! I may even read it to my sixth graders (I teach math and science so I don’t usually read to them). Every home and classroom should have this book available to read. This story is poignant, relevant, important, and so needed today!

Content Rating PG-13Content Rating: PG-13 (There isn’t any profanity or “intimacy.” There is some minor violence involving bullying, and it deals with some tough topics like mental illness. A character does die by suicide. )

Recommendation: YA+

My Rating: 4.5/5

4.5 Star Rating

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

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