Author: Alex Gino
Reviewer: Yolanda Ridge
To be honest, George is not the most well written middle grade book I’ve ever read. But the topic is very important and the story is engaging so I recommend it – especially for teachers and librarians. It’s a quick read that would be great for a classroom read aloud followed by a group discussion about gender identity.
Fourth grader George has always felt like a girl. The book doesn’t go into much detail about this but the author shows her conviction through use of the pronoun “she” and “her”. George keeps fashion magazines hidden in her room and considers the girls on the pages her friends. She’s researched transgender online but never shared her secret with real friends or family. When she wants to play Charlotte in the class play of Charlotte’s Web instead of Wilber, her true identity is finally revealed.
I didn’t think that the students in this book behaved like normal 4th graders. But I loved George’s best friend, Kelly, and her reaction to George being a girl. Not only does Kelly quickly accept George as Melissa, she shares her role as Charlotte and helps Melissa dress up for a trip to the zoo.
I have no idea what it is like to be transgendered but I felt like there was a stereotypical message here about what it’s like to be a “good girl” (interested in clothes and make up) and a “good boy” (interested in tough stuff like violent video games). Also, things seemed to happened a bit too easily for George/Melissa. Her mom and brother are both accepting, although not quite as enthusiastic as Kelly. There is really only one bully at school that teases her and one teacher that doesn’t want her to play Charlotte.
I have mixed feelings about this. Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s very realistic. But I also think it’s important for middle grade stories to provide a positive message. George serves as a model for how people should react to a transgendered family member, friend or classmate. And I hope that transgendered youth who read this book will be encouraged to be themselves – regardless of the consequences.