This book was truly adorable. A story about transgender youth, I can most certainly see this book’s worth in the world. We need to educate all of our youth on how to be kind to everyone, regardless of how they see themselves. We need to value everyone for who they are and celebrate our differences.
George is in fourth grade, and knows she’s a girl despite what the rest of the world tells her, but has kept that a secret from everyone. She’s almost bubbling over, though, and can’t hold it in much longer. Her class is putting on a production of Charlotte’s Web, a story that George truly loves, and she develops a plan for the world to see her as a girl. She will perform as Charlotte! When practicing the lines with her best friend Kelly, George feels like Charlotte is who she’s meant to be. However, her teacher won’t let her tryout as Charlotte, because she’s a boy.
I’ve had several friends who have transitioned or were transitioning when I lived near them, and that experience was at times very challenging and at other times (from my perspective and what they shared with me) they felt surrounded by accepting people who supported them. I often find myself incredibly emotional that not everyone can be accepted or have a positive experience of coming out as trans. At the same time, I am so grateful that we have trans stories that are not only getting well known in the adult world, but also that we have trans novels entering middle grade fiction! Normalizing this type of narrative is incredibly important to helping everyone feel accepted. I can’t believe I didn’t hear about this book when it first came out! I only just heard about it on a podcast a couple of weeks ago, and was floored to find it in my local library.
This book has a host of characters who each have their own reactions to George’s coming out. Some of the characters take it in stride pretty easily, some reject her fully, and others have reactions somewhere in the middle. The reactions in the middle are those that make George feel the worst, as those reactions come from people she admires and cares about and therefore she wants their full acceptance, not a half-hearted, “okay, but you don’t know how you actually feel”.
George’s best friend Kelly is the bomb diggity. George has chosen the name Melissa in private, and when she hears Kelly say her name for the first time, she is ecstatic! Kelly and Melissa have a lot of fun together, and it is so important to have kind and caring friends. Kelly is terribly supportive of Melissa in all her endeavors, and aspires to support her in the coming out process.
Gino’s descriptions are excellent for middle grade readers. Gino is often objective in their descriptions of the surroundings, and as a reader, I enjoyed thinking about the judgments I am biased to place based on objective descriptions, when in reality, the author passes no judgment there. I did feel some of the dialogue was at times very young feeling, but am not sure how that would go over with the elementary target audience. I also felt at times frustrated by the gender dichotomy that was apparent, although Gino did well at combining different interests to make the binary feel less important.