by Alex Gino
Intermediate and middle grade; transgender subject matter
Interest level: grades 3-6
Reading level: 4.7
Stonewall Book Award, 2016
5 out of 5 stars
If I was to strictly rate the technical writing and execution of George, I would probably rate the story at a 3 out of 5 stars. However, the topic, and the authority of the author, makes this book a must-read.
George is a 4th-grader who is excited for the auditions for the upcoming class play, Charlotte’s Web. George loves the character of Charlotte, and feels that playing the role will help her in ways that no one can understand. George was born a boy, but knows that she is a girl. Being seen as a boy is embarrassing, awkward, and feels wrong to George. The story is about how George is struggling to tell his friends and family about who she really is.
George is an engaging character that will make readers care about her outcome, but I feel that the author leaves a lot of questions during the first parts of the story. If I was not already aware that George was about a transgender character, I am not sure the story would have made much sense at the beginning. It was around 100 pages in, as George auditions for the role of Charlotte, that I felt the story came into its own and really started to propel the reader forward.
What I found most enlightening about the story, is the frequency that people use gender references. Having classes line up in a boy line and a girl line…a mom telling her child that she will always be her special baby boy…these things are not meant to torture anyone, but for a person who is transgender, it can be devastating.
I know some teachers or librarians might consider censoring this text and not making it available for its intended age group, grades 3-6, but the story is executed in a way that is informative and not controversial. Rick Riordan, in his GoodReads review of George, said, “I have seen this struggle with several of my own students during my time in K-8 schools. This is a timely and important topic, and not something schools can pretend to ignore until kids are ‘old enough to know about this sort of thing.’ In my humble opinion, it’s never too soon to be accepting and inclusive.” George is not a sexual story, it is a story about gender identity and truly seeing who people are, not who we believe they should be.
This is an important work of literature!