Scholastic, 2015 195 pgs.
George is a fourth grade girl trapped in a boy's body. Society identifies George as a boy, but she identifies herself as a girl. She keeps a secret stash of teen girl magazine hidden in her closet from which she gleans sneak peeks into the forbidden world of young females. George is ashamed of her secret self and is afraid of judgement by her peers and family. After a class reading of Charlotte's Web, George is so moved by the life and death of Charlotte she feels compelled to audition for the role of the gentle spider in the class play. George's best friend, Kelly, helps her prepare for the role. George bravely auditions, only to be turned down by her teacher for not being the traditional gender for the role. Devastated, George joins the stage crew where she encounters the class bully and finally comes to terms with who she is and finds the courage to be honest about it. George first confides her secret to Kelly, who after the initial shock, is supportive and shares her lead role as Charlotte with George. The night of the play, George reveals to the world her true self. Family members, peers, and school staff all now know her secret, which is both a relief and a fright and George nervously waits for everyone's reactions. Those who matter the most chose to be supportive and George continues to grow and figure out her place in life embracing her new identity.
Alex Gino presents the first novel written to my knowledge of a transgender child for children. Gino pens the book bravely, yet gently, never losing George's voice. Yes, the main point of the book is George struggling with gender identity and navigating through the world feeling different and finally finding the courage to be who she feels she really is, but it is also a universal story of a child feeling different and struggling to fit in. George's excitement over the auditions and then the disappoint when the teacher doesn't "get it" is heartbreaking and universally identifiable. Educators should read this book to help serve transgender youth possibly sitting in their classrooms. The principal was an inspirational character and a true champion. I felt choked up when she instantly supported George in being who she really is and protected him from his teacher's disapproval. The mother disappointed me at first, but then came around realistically. This is not a book about sexuality. George remains a child. When people asked him if he is gay, he says he is not ready to like boys or girls. The transgender portions of the book are age appropriate to the audience. Parents should be aware that George's brother talks about "dirty magazines" and tampons are mentioned, as well as being "gay" or "straight". Be prepared for questions about some of these topics if your child picks up the book. Then again, I feel that kids don't process what they don't understand while reading (unlike movies where the visual forces the point). This is an important book to have on the shelf both so that kids struggling with gender identity see a book that reflects their experiences and for kids who aren't struggling with these issues to feel empathy for their peers who are.