Written by: Alex Gino
Release Date: August 25, 2015
Pages: 240, Hardback
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Thanks to Scholastic for the ARC!
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.
My first reaction to George: I’m just so happy it exists! Considering how many children realize they’re trans in elementary school, it’s kind of ridiculous that there are barely any books like this one for them. (I didn’t fully understand what ‘transgender’ even meant until I was thirteen-ish, which is way too late). Transgender kids need books with characters they can relate to, to show them that they aren’t alone and they can find happiness. Cisgender children need to understand what the word ‘transgender’ means and be able to empathize with and support their transgender peers. This book is so, so important and I’m very glad to have read it.
(Note: I’m calling the main character ‘Melissa’ here because that’s her chosen name; however, for most of the book the narration refers to her as George. I think pairing the name George with female pronouns in the narration and then switching to calling her Melissa at the end was an amazingly effective narrative choice, by the way.)
The book presents Melissa’s struggles in an effective and sometimes heartbreaking way. In one scene that hits me particularly hard, Melissa’s mother (who at this point doesn’t know she’s a girl) tells her, “You’ll always be my baby boy,” and doesn’t realize how hurtful this is for her. I just wanted to give Melissa a hug at this point. I also appreciated this book showcasing how much traditional gender roles are pushed on children, and how badly people can react when someone doesn’t follow their assigned gender role. Even adults who mean well can get it very wrong.
But in general, this is an optimistic book. I was honestly smiling so hard by the end. I was so proud of Melissa for showing everyone who she was. Melissa’s friend Kelly was amazing and supportive and cute, and while her mother didn’t react too well at first, by the end of the book she was willing to accept her. By the last scene, my heart was pretty much bursting with joy.
Basically, I loved this book. It’s short, simple, emotionally honest, and hopeful, and I cannot express enough how happy I am that it exists.