“Bertha and Tillie Sisters Forever” by Fran Lewis is a lesson, told in story form. It is a lesson of tolerance and making good decisions. While I suspect that this book was intended for children, I know more than a few adults that could learn a thing or two from this book.
Enter Bertha, a 13 yr old overweight girl. The book is told through her eyes and her voice. Each chapter is a scene in a play. The first chapter sets the stage. Meet the players. Penelope Mia, Bertha’s cousin is a pretty, slim, popular girl who is a snob, a bully and has an air of arrogance that would block out the Southern California smog. Then there is Tillie, Bertha’s sister. As siblings sometime are – Tillie and Bertha could not be more different. While Bertha is overweight, shy, and has few friends, Tillie is slender, vivacious and a total social butterfly.
With each chapter, Bertha is faced with a different obstacle to overcome. Once, she was blamed for something she didn’t do. Too shy and quiet to stick up for herself, she accepts the punishment. Then, in an effort to beat the system, Bertha switched sides to see what it was like to be the bad girl for a change. In her mind, becoming part of a gang would keep her from being bullied or wrongly accused. As it turned out, she was still wrongly accused, and because she didn’t want to do what the gang was doing, she was on the verge of getting bullied – or worse. Bertha always seems to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, now getting hauled into the police station with the gang. As we observe, a thirteen year old girl must continuously make decisions, and not every decision is going to be the right choice.
Now its time for Bertha to fight back. She began by researching who was posting embarrassing pictures of her on My Space and Face Book. That was interrupted when the principal asked Bertha to lead a new peer mediation group for her middle school. She gathers some friends and they begin the investigation….. Through her work on this peer mediation group, adults begin to trust once again.
The chapters come, and with each chapter, Bertha confronts some type of intolerance, be-it bigotry, bully’s, vandals or gangs.
As an outcast she turned to acceptance through gangs. That didn’t work out. Turning to doing the right thing by reporting vandals, bully’s, bigots and such and leading a team of students to work with police to rid the school of those bad influences turned out to be the path of acceptance.
“Bertha and Tillie Sisters Forever” is well written and easy to follow. The story is engaging and the lessons are important. Fran provided a glimpse into a 13 year old girl’s life and extracted sympathy and empathy from our hearts. This book is full of important lessons in tolerance. lessons that are crucial for children, and a necessary reminder for adults.