Dana reviews George by Alex Gino (Published by Scholastic Press, August 25, 2015, 208 pages. Released on audio by Scholastic Audio, September 1, 2015, 2 hrs 57 mins. Narrated by Jamie Clayton)
This week we decided to review a book featuring a character that represents each letter of the LGBTQIA acronym. I’ve read a few books with transgender characters in the past, mostly featuring trans-men. I decided to review George this week because it was a book I listened to featuring a young boy who identified as female. I wanted to step outside my usual reading material with this book that features a trans-girl and is not a romance, but a story meant for middle grade. I don’t think there is an age limit for the reader who can enjoy this book, though.
Blurb: BE WHO YOU ARE.
When people look at George, they think they see a boy. But she knows she’s not a boy. She knows she’s a girl.
George thinks she’ll have to keep this a secret forever. Then her teacher announces that their class play is going to be Charlotte’s Web. George really, really, REALLY wants to play Charlotte. But the teacher says she can’t even try out for the part . . . because she’s a boy.
With the help of her best friend, Kelly, George comes up with a plan. Not just so she can be Charlotte — but so everyone can know who she is, once and for all.
The narration: The narrator is an actress and trans-woman herself, and I think she was able to use her own experiences to bring real emotion to the story. There isn’t real variation between the characters voices, but I thought she voiced George’s words and thoughts perfectly.
The story: George really is a sweet story, very innocent. It’s not a romance, George is in fourth grade and not ready to decide who she is attracted to. Though George was born male, that is not how she identifies. If only she could stop people from seeing the body she was born in instead of who she is. Hiding fashion magazines in the back of her closet, she seems to be resigned to hiding her true self until her class puts on a play of Charlotte’s Web. George’s deep desire to play Charlotte is a game changer. The role is so special that she will risk trying out and face the ridicule of her classmates. Only her teacher says the part needs to go to a girl.
This story paints a really vivid picture of what it must be like for a young person whose body does not fit who they are as a person. Fourth grade might not be as angst-ridden as the high school years where emotions seem to be ruled by hormones. But changes are just around the corner for George, and now might be her best chance to become who she was meant to be. Though her mom brushes off her feelings when George tells her she’s a girl, her best friend Kelly’s acceptance seems to help George find the strength she needs to push her boundaries. I really loved how accepting George’s older brother was about it as well. The differences between the George and her brother could not make it more obvious how George doesn’t fit with her body.
With Kelly’s help George gets to play the part of her dreams, and finally she is seen for who she is. My favorite part of the book is when Kelly and George go to the zoo with Kelly’s uncle and George dresses the way she wants and chooses the name she wants to have, Melissa. The freedom of being who she is pure bliss. You can feel it in Melissa’s thoughts and actions. I felt the same joy listening to it.
I think this story is really good for a parent of a transgender child to read or listen too. I think it is good for other children to read so they might understand better what their peers might be going through. I also think it is an important story for those who don’t understand or are confused by the transgender community. Seeing how George feels can only make one more empathetic to her situation. I definitely recommend this book.
Alex Gino loves glitter, ice cream, gardening, awe-ful puns, and stories that reflect the diversity and complexity of being alive.
When Alex started writing GEORGE in 2003, they had no idea how long a journey it would be, but the hole in children’s literature was clear, and they knew how they wanted to fill it. Now, after countless revisions, breaks of frustration, and days spent staring at drafts willing them to be better, Alex is delighted and proud to present GEORGE to the world.