I first heard about the book George from Lisa at expandng. While we didn’t get it read in time for her monthly book club discussion about it, I wanted to share our family’s thoughts on the book now that we have finally finished it. First let me note that the last chapter book we read together as a family was Wonder by R. J. Palacio. We loved this book and enjoyed reading it together. Reading chapter books together as a family is hard though. With everyone’s busy schedules, many nights we only have time for a picture book or two before bed. Between the Weekend Chef’s work schedule, the kids activities and my tennis league, we also ran into the problem of us all not being around to read together at bedtime. After many weeks and needing to renew the book from the library, we finally finished reading it!
I will also note that I knew nothing about this book before reading it. Absolutely nothing. I found it at the library on display with the junior chapter books so assumed it would be appropriate for the kids. For those who don’t know anything about this book, it is about a boy named George who is keeping a secret. He (referred to as “she” in the book) feels like and wishes he was a girl. George’s class is putting on a production of Charlotte’s Web and she really wants to play the role of Charlotte. The story is told from George’s point of view. We get to see her struggle with identity and with the help of her best friend Kelly, creating a plan to play the part she wants and let others know who she really is.
My thoughts: I find this book to be timely and relevant in today’s world. My kids are 7 and 9 1/2. It was definitely my error in not reading the book jacket before starting this book with the kids to prepare myself and them for the subject matter that the book deals with. They now know what lesbian and gay mean in the simplest terms and seemed okay with my definition (when a girl loves a girl or a boy loves a boy). I think the transgender issue is a little trickier. I mentioned that throughout the book George referred to herself as “she” but didn’t come right out and state that she was a boy until late in the book. The first few chapters my daughter kept stating “I’m so confused! His name is George, but is he a he or a she?!” I told her we’d keep reading and see. I think this book did a great job of explaining the anxiety and feelings of transgender children. My criticism of the book is that George is in the 4th grade. However, the author makes references to “dirty magazines” and uses language like “taking a dump” that I found unnecessary and inappropriate for the targeted audience. Overall, I liked this book and believe it’s one of the only children’s books out there that deals with the topic of transgender issues targeted towards a middle grade audience.
My husband: I thought the book was perfectly appropriate for our kids except for the few unnecessary adult bits mentioned above. Nancy and I couldn’t figure out was age group the book was for. Would older kids enjoy reading about a younger boy in 4th grade? Maybe. Would kids in 4th grade really understand what’s going on without some parental help? And would those parents not mind some more mature material? Not sure. I really appreciated the first-person presentation of George’s conflict from the inside out. The character is well-developed and we always encourage learning about other people’s perspectives. It just so happens that the 4th grader in the story has conflicts like nothing else available to kids that I know of. I recommend that you read it with your 4th grader but be prepared read it yourself first and then be prepared to have some conversations the second time around.
My daughter (age 9 1/2): I liked George because even though George is a boy, she thought she was girl. Her friend Kelly believed George, when she told her she was a girl and helped her make a plan so she could be Charlotte in the play. Kelly is a true friend to George in this story. I really liked this book because it was an amazing story about problems that some people might have to deal with.
My son (age 7): People thought that George was a boy but she felt like a girl. She wanted to be Charlotte in the play. I thought it was pretty good because I liked the Charlotte’s Web play. There were some parts that were a little too girly for me, like when George and Kelly were trying on clothes.