This was such a lovely little book. I’m glad it exists, and not just for little trans kids, but for all kids. It encourages empathy, imagination, and kindness, something all kids (and grown-ups) can always benefit from.
George is the birthname of our female protagonist, who is in the 4th grade, and knows that even though she was born with a boy’s body, inside she has always been a girl. She has never told anyone this (although we get hints that her family knows something is up, though they think she is gay). The catalyst here is that her class is performing Charlotte’s Web as a play and she very badly wants to be Charlotte. She and her best friend Kelly practice and practice, and when the try-outs come around, the teacher refuses to let George play Charlotte, even though George knows she was the best candidate. The teacher, and many of her classmates, can’t get past the “basic” fact that Charlotte is a girl, so she can only be played by a girl. When she does finally manage to tell Kelly that she is transgender (though not in those exact words), Kelly is very supportive of George, and they come up with a plan so that George can play Charlotte anyway.
George is a very sweet kid. She’s quiet and thoughtful and a bit shy, but she’s also kind and very perceptive. She’s also seemingly really good at acting. It’s painful to see other people hurt her, either intentionally or unintentionally (before she comes out, there is a lot of misgendering that is painful to her), and it’s so heartwarming to see her succeed, or to see people support her. The book does a nice job showing reactions all up and down the spectrum, from an unthinking bully, to her confused, well-meaning mother who doesn’t really understand her, to a very supportive principal, and of course, Kelly.
Not everything is completely resolved by the end of the book, but it’s made clear that simply having people accept her and being allowed to be her true self has made her, not keeping everything bottled up inside, a much happier kid.
She chooses the new name of Melissa by the end of the book, and as it ends, Kelly is the only person she has told her new name to. I was torn as to what to call her throughout the review, as I know trans people are rightfully sensitive about being deadnamed, but the book calls her George for 90% of the story, and as it’s told in 3rd person limited POV, it’s actually clear that’s what Melissa calls herself until the end as well, so that’s what I went with.
Anyway, this book is well worth checking out. I read it so fast, like in an hour and a half, even though it’s about 200 pages. It’s good for your kids, good for you, good for everyone. Just a really sweet, kind book, just like its main character.
Read Harder Challenge 2019: A children’s or middle grade book (not YA) that has won a diversity award since 2009.