Monday, February 1, 2016

George by Alex Gino

I was fortunate enough to be in San Francisco on June 26, 2015. I understand if you are not familiar with this date and the historic significance. I will not judge, and I hope you will not judge me for being excited about that day.

June 26, 2015 was the day of the Supreme Court ruling making same-sex marriage a right nationwide.

I am a happily married woman. I have been married to my husband for over 22 years. Why should I not be excited for my friends who are gay or lesbian to have the same opportunity?

Alex Gino

I am remembering this time because of a book I just finished reading, George written by Alex Gino. It was during this trip to San Francisco for the American Library Association's Annual Conference I first saw George. In fact, I received an ARC (advanced reader's copy) of the book. I remember when I picked it up and read the insert that said, "This book will change your life" and a message from David Levithan, the editor of the book. I even got a button that says, "Be Who You Are". Sadly, my copy of George was hidden away in one of the many tote bags I picked up during conference. I re-discovered George when I was perusing our district's review shelves. I was so excited to see this title and immediately grabbed it to read and review. Ironically after pulling the book to review my ARC appeared along with the button which I now have proudly hanging with my button collection in my office.

The title character, George, is not gay or lesbian, but a young girl trapped in the body of a boy. Gino creates realistic characters who show true emotion and inner turmoil when confronted with George's reality. I am especially grateful Gino created a character with a safe place for George, even if it is only briefly mentioned. The reader can draw their own conclusions as to the purpose for this insight, but I believe it provides a glimpse into the life of the principal.

The story is woven around the school's study of E.B. White's Charlotte's Web. George desperately wants to play the role of Charlotte when her fourth grade class performs for the lower grades. However, since she is a boy, she is not considered for the role. The book seems to come to an abrupt end, but I like where Gino leaves the story. It is hopeful and uplifting.

The terms transgender and transitioning are used in this wonderful book for readers in third through seventh grade. The topic of being gay is briefly mentioned, but George explains she is not gay, but a girl in a boys body.

I highly recommend George by Alex Gino for anyone willing to stand up for children who need to read about characters in books who are like themselves. Just like books such as And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson, A Tale of Two Mommies by Vanita Oelschlager or Daddy, Papa, and Me by Lesléa Newman, there is a need for book on topics a lot of people feel are controversial. If this is our society's reality, then we need to have books available to reflect all people, and not simply the ones that make us feel the most comfortable reading about and discussing.