I am back with my Diversity Reading Challenge on Mondays and hope to introduce you to a range of texts that you might not automatically select, but which I hope you will read and pass on.
Written by: Alex Gino
Published by: Scholastic Press, September, 2015
Themes/Topics: transgender children, upper elementary students, theatre, self-acceptance, LGBTQ
Suitable for ages: 7-11
Praise for GEORGE:
PW Starred Review: “Profound, moving, and—as Charlotte would say—radiant”
Kirkus Starred Review: “Deeply moving in its simplicity and joy”
SLJ Starred Review: “A required purchase for any collection that serves a middle grade population.”
IndieNext Pick: “This is not just a story about a transgender child, but also a story for any child, teen, or adult who has ever felt uncomfortable in their own skin or out of place in this world. I’m sure anyone who has read and been moved by George would agree: Reading this breathtaking debut should be a requirement for living.”
George pulled a silver house key out of the smallest pocket of a large red backpack. Mom had sewn the key in so that it wouldn’t get lost, but the yarn wasn’t quite long enough to reach the keyhole if the bag rested on the ground. Instead, George had to steady herself awkwardly on one foot while the backpack rested on her other knee. She wiggled the key until it clicked into place.
George is a 4th grade girl in a boy’s body. She hasn’t told anyone that she is transgender and fears her Mom or brother will discover her hidden girls’ magazines collection and uncover he secret. He strong identification with the female spider, Charlotte, in Charlotte’s Web pushes her to request trying out for the part in the school play, though her teacher refuses because she is a boy. Aided and abetted by her best friend, Kelly, cast in the role. George obtains an opportunity to play Charlotte and this offers George an opportunity to express her gender to her Mom and classmates in a way that seems easier than just telling it straight out. Kelly is a fabulous ally throughout and the kind of best friend one would wish for any kid.
Why I like This Book:
This is a moving, fresh, authentic-feeling transgender story aimed at upper elementary students. It has similarities with Gracefully Grayson, which I reviewed on my blog at the end of June, with the protagonist in both desiring to play a female role in a class/school play, but GEORGE is aimed at a younger crowd for whom there are possibly even fewer stories with this theme. I find it a strongly told narrative, pitch perfect for this age group, including a realistic array of responses from the cast of characters. It is a swift and touching read that I would consider reading with any upper elementary class leading to discussions on self-acceptance, gender identity, courage and being an ally. I am thrilled that Scholastic chose to publish this and I hope it finds wide circulation in classrooms around the world, where it can be a terrific resource for cis and LGBTQ young readers.
I wouldn’t personally shelve this with middle grade novels, but would definitely find a place for it in the elementary school library. This isn’t an easy book as the subject is, of course, controversial, but Gino handles the themes with great sensitivity and the knowledge that it was twelve years in the writing somehow adds to its backbone for me. I was glad for the authorial choice of a female pronoun for George throughout, which felt fitting for this young girl who truly knew her gender identity. This isn’t a questioning child so much as one finding the right platform to let her family and community know who she really is. Remember this is one story of one child’s transgender expression, a child with whom any reader can relate for her battle to be true to herself.
This is not just a book for kids who have felt bullied or like they’ve had to hide a part of themselves. It’s a book for people who need to understand other people better. And that’s pretty much all of us.
- Support and Resources for People Who Are Transgender or Gender Expansive, and Their Loved Ones – See more at: https://community.pflag.org/transgender#sthash.95f0clWk.dpuf
- Gender Spectrum helps to create gender sensitive and inclusive environments
for all children and teens: https://www.genderspectrum.org
- Find Support Groups for Parents of Transgender children and Trans Youth by State http://www.transgenderchild.net/resources/support-groups/
- Transgender frequently asked questions at GLAAD: http://www.glaad.org/transgender/transfaq/
- An interview SLJ did with debut author, Alex Gino.
- An article by the author on his website about how to talk about GEORGE.
Reviewed from an ARC.