For my review for George by Alex Gino, I decided I was going to do something a little different. I am going to share with you all why I think you should read this book with your kids… I would like to point out that I said to read this book WITH your kids and not simply letting your kids read it themselves….
Author: Alex Gino
Genre: Middle Grade • LGBT+ Fiction • Contemporary
Version: Audiobook (2h 57min listening length)
Narrator: Jamie Clayton
Publisher: Scholastic Audio
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.
*I would like to preface this review with the disclaimer that I am no way shape or form an expert on what it means to be transgender. I am trying to educate myself, so in turn I can educate my own children. If you are reading this and notice that there is something offensive or harmful, please point it out. That is what this is all about after all, learning.
» George can be used as a tool to introduce what transgender means
Just like anything else, children need to be taught. I don’t know about you, but I like to present new subjects to my children in an appropriate and sensitive manner. I think George does a wonderful job introducing children (and adults) what it feels like for an individual to question their gender identity and ultimately decide that their gender identity does not match their sex assignment. Let’s be honest, the concept of what it means to be transgender can be a confusing one, but Gino lays it out in such a easy to follow way that even his middle grade target audience will understand what the term means.
» George can help open up dialogue about LGBTQ+ issues
If you read this book WITH your kids, it gives them the opportunity to ask questions and open up dialogue. Obviously after you have the discussion on exactly what transgender means, they will most likely have a plethora of questions that will lead into other areas of the LGBTQ+ spectrum.
» George can help children learn empathy
This is huge and probably one of the most important aspects of this book. Since George is told through Melissa’s point of view, we can really empathize with her. We get to know her inner thoughts and feelings. Think about what school would be like if all children read books like George? When children read books like this and can empathize with the character’s feelings, they are less likely to laugh at or bully those who may be going through a similar situation.
» Friendship is an important theme in George
I really cannot even begin to describe the friendship between Melissa and Kelly. Kelly has to be hands down one of my favorite “side-kicks” ever. THIS is the type of friend I want my kids to be and to have. Her love and acceptance of Melissa was everything.
» George may be relatable to a child in your life
Maybe you have a child in your life that has been questioning their gender assignment. Maybe you WILL know a child that will question their gender assignment. Regardless if you know a child like this or not, there needs to be books that transgender children can see themselves in. They need to feel like they are not alone. This book has the potential to give hope to children who may not have discussed their feelings with the adults in their life.
» YOU will learn a lot from George too
I got so much out of this book. George really is a rollercoaster of emotion. This book both broke and warmed my heart. It also showed me how important family support is for children who are questioning things. While I can understand why Melissa’s mother reacted the way she did, essentially ignoring it, I now see how harmful this was to Melissa. George also really helped me understand the “bathroom dilemma” for transgender individuals. This isn’t to say that I was opposed to transgender individuals to be able to use the bathroom of the gender they identify with, but I didn’t fully understand how much anxiety this causes. Reading George helped to put things into perspective for me.
I LOVE that Gino chose their target audience for this book to be middle grade age range. This is such a crucial age. YA is too late to introduce these topics. This isn’t to say that transgender representation is not important in YA, but that we need more transgender representation in the middle grade genre.
I am embarrassed to admit that I had no idea what transgender meant until I was a freshman in college. This was back in 2005 before the term was as common knowledge as it is today. I grew up in Catholic schools (Kindergarten through High School) where, as you can imagine, LGBTQ+ issues were rarely discussed. If they were brought up it was by no means positive. I also had parents who never sat me down to explain these things to me. I do not want that for my children. I my children to grow up knowing what transgender means and not to think it is something wrong or taboo. By having these conversations with our kids, we are normalizing experiences of transgendered individuals, thus creating more accepting and non-judgmental children.
If I had to put an age range on this book, I would probably go with ages 9+. Not that this book isn’t appropriate for a younger audience, but I am not sure they would fully understand the concepts. Obviously, you know your children best, so you will know what they are ready for, and what they are not. I would like to mention that masturbation is implied once or twice in this book, but it is never talked about directly. It is one of those situations where an older brother is teasing about spending too much time in the bathroom, or something to that extent. For younger children, it will go right over their heads. I just wanted to mention this so no one is blind sided.
The bottom line here is that George is an important novel, and possibly one of the most important middle grade novels I’ve ever read.
Check out the author’s blog post where they (pronoun of choice) talk about how to about the book → How to Talk About GEORGE
Other Book Recommendations:
» Gracefully Grayson by Ami Polonsky
» Drama by Raina Telgemeier
About the Author:
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.
Note: Alex uses the singular-they, and the honorific Mx., pronounced “Mix”. (e.g. Mx. Gino is hoping they still have ice cream in the freezer.) If you are speaking or writing about Alex, please do the same.