Friday, December 25, 2015

George by Alex Gino

To the outside world George is an awkward boy who never quite fits in with the other boys in his class - but that is because on the inside George is a girl trapped in the wrong body.  Life has become a series of secrets and wishes for something that she can't seem to be, hiding the truth from people around her because she is afraid.  Her only escape is her friendship with Kelly, and the secret stash of teen girl magazines that she hides from her family in her room - magazines that help her cope by escaping into their pages of pure girl world.

When her class prepares to put on Charlotte's web George knows that more than anything she wants to play Charlotte, a role that seems to call to her.  When she auditions as Charlotte she thinks she has done a good job, but her teacher wont let her be Charlotte because she thinks George is a boy - and that he is auditioning for Charlotte as a joke.  It seems as though her dream of playing Charlotte is destroyed beyond repair, but George didn't count on just how good a friend Kelly really is.  Finding her voice as Charlotte is just part of her journey, George also has to find the courage to tell her mother that she is trapped in the wrong body, and her mother is not ready to hear it - will she ever be?

I wanted to read George because fiction can be a window to another world for children - especially if it is well written.  That window may be a glimpse into another world, it can be a glimpse into the past, or it can be a glimpse into a world where another child is experiencing the same things you are.  Children are not born with prejudice, they learn to hate and judge from the people around them, particularly their parents.  That hate and prejudice may come from the way they were raised, it may come from their religion, or from accepted "social norms".  

George is a sweet little book that challenges one of the greatest "social norms" - that a child is born in the right body, and that what you see on the outside should be what is on the inside.  Luckily there are more diverse books out there now that are challenging these social norms and giving a voice to children who might otherwise think they are alone.  This is the perfect chapter book for parents who want to introduce their children to the idea of being transgender, especially a child who is transgender and has no doubt they were born in the wrong body.  George has no doubt what she is, and the fears and doubts she feels ring true as she faces up to what the outside world sees and expects.  

This is not a deep and meaningful novel of identity, but it is an honest look at identity for children - when they are teenagers they can sink their teeth into some of the other more challenging and complicated reads out there.  There are some so-so reviews out there, but I would suggest you read the book for yourself and make up your own mind.  If you want to help your child develop a broad world view then I would recommend adding George to your reading list - and theirs.

If you like this book then try:
  • My Princess Boy by Cheryl Kilodavis; illustrated by Suzanne DeSimone
  • Chamelia by Ethan Long
  • 10,000 dresses by Marcus Ewert; illustrated by Rex Ray
  • And Tango makes three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
  • Be who you are by Jennifer Carr; pictures by Ben Rumback
  • Gracefully Grayson by Ami Polonsky
  • It's okay to be different by Todd Parr
  • You're different and that's super by Carson Kressley; illustrated by Jared Lee
Reviewed by Brilla

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