“I want to be Charlotte,” George whispered. Kelly shrugged. “That’s cool…who care’s if you’re not really a girl?” George’s stomach dropped. She cared. Tons.
– Alex Gino, George
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.
“You have some queer friends, Dorothy,’ she said. “The queerness doesn’t matter, so long as they’re friends,’ was the answer.” It would appear that Alex Gino was channelling Frank L. Baum when they wrote George, a surprising debut novel that explores the life of a young transgender protagonist. The push for diversity in Children’s/ Young Adult fiction is gaining momentum at a rapid rate and while this may be the first transgender children’s book I have read, I doubt it will be the last!
When fourth grade teacher Ms. Udell announces to the class they will be performing Charlotte’s Web, George want to play the part of Charlotte more than anything! The only problem is (to the world) George is a boy and can’t play the part of a girl. What the world doesn’t know is that George is a really a girl with the single wish of wanting to be her true self. With the help of her best friend Kelly, George is able to show those around her just who she really is!
George is the perfect bookshelf companion for those who loved Wonder by R. J. Palacio. It is a beautiful exploration of the isolation and frustration felt by transgender persons. The use of Charlotte’s Web – a story about kindness and belonging – as the backdrop for George’s story to play out was a perfect choice by Gino. The stage is place where identities can be tried and tested and in an act of true friendship, Kelly give’s George the chance to shine. Kelly is a magnificent character; she doesn’t question George’s feelings but only wants to make her feel true to herself! It may be a book for young audiences but Gino doesn’t shy away from their character experiencing the full range of emotions and reactions: hope, rejection, bullying, fear and acceptance. Gino’s story is honest and hopeful and they doesn’t appear to suffer from the self-censorship often felt by authors writing marginalised stories. It is a wonderful portrayal of a young person coming to terms with gender identity!
AUTHOR: Alex Gino
PUB DATE: December 2015
Thank you to Scholastic for sending me a reading copy in exchange for an honest review!