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Middle School Read

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George

George by Alex Gino
on August 25th 2015
Genres: Coming of Age, Contemporary, Family, GLBT, Realistic Fiction
Pages: 195

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Reaction Upon Reading: I wish this was something I could read to my class, without them reacting negatively. It has such a beautiful message.


“She’s always going on about how we’re not supposed to let people’s expectations limit our choices.”


Synopsis:

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.


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“My point is, it takes a special person to cry over a book. It shows compassion as well as imagination.”


Likes:

  • This story is so beautiful. I don’t even know where to begin with explaining all of the things I adored. It is one of those books you want to put a nice bow on and give to everyone.
  • The book starts with George coming home from school and retrieving her hidden magazines from her closet. She locks herself in the bathroom to avoid getting caught looking at them, and unlike her brother assumes, they aren’t nude magazines. They are girly magazines. Why is this a big deal? George was born a boy.
    • Boom! What a great way to set up this book.
  • This book really made me think! 
    • So much so, that I talked to my friends and boyfriend a lot about the role that gender plays in our society. I started taking note of gender neutral bathrooms and how flawed some of our systems are for people like George. 
  • George’s brother.
    • He made my heart melt. I think about  my brother’s own reaction to something like this would be and I hope he would have been equally supportive and kind. I can honestly predict that my mother would react the same way as George’s, which helps me so that it is more out of fear for you child than dislike or discomfort. We live in such a cruel world, where being different is viewed so negatively. 
  • I love that the author used the name George with the pronoun her. This seems so obvious, but to those that aren’t aware of the use of the correct pronouns, it is a simple and powerful teaching tool.

Dislikes:

  • It was really short, which normally I would love…but I felt like some aspects of the story were rushed and I would have liked to see them drawn out and developed a bit more.
    • The relationship between George and her mum versus George and her brother.
    • Kelly and the Zoo trip.
    • What happens next?

“She looked in the mirror and gasped. Melissa gasped back at her. For a long time, she stood there, just blinking. George smiled, and Melissa smiled too.”


Reactions, Ramblings and Questions:

  • George is in 4th grade.
    • At first I thought this was great, really powerful that George is 10 years old when she is experiencing all of the emotional, physical and mental affects of being transgender.
    • There were times when I felt like the age didn’t match the experiences. George seemed so naive at times for 10 and then Kelly seemed so much older than ten, especially being left a lot of the time on her own by her father. 
  • As a teacher it is interesting to read chapter 2. George is stuck in a school system that is extremely gender based. She is told by the teacher she will turn into a fine young man and given the boys bathroom pass to clear herself up after crying over Charlotte’s death. – I find it interesting the students refer to her as girly but the adults are unaware. It really makes me question how much I take note of this in my own classroom. It is not something I have ever experience as a teacher, although I do know a few friends who have students who have begun their transition.
  • George wants to play Charlotte and do the character justice – I like the way this book brings to light gender roles without bashing people for being ignorant, it brings the issue to light in a way that makes you stop and think.
  • The teachers reaction made George feel stupid.
    • This was so heartbreaking! God I hope I have never done that to a child. 
  • His mothers reaction was unacceptable in my opinion, it’s okay to worry or feel confused and scared for your child, but how dare you put them down or make them feel like wanting to wear woman’s clothes is something to be ashamed of. We need to have a real cultural shift on how we view the transgender community
    • As I stated before, this book has opened up a lot of discussion about gender neutral toys, non gendered bathrooms, social norms and expectations we follow without ever questioning. 
  • George’s brothers reaction was everything a sibling going through this could hope for. Kelly is also being super supportive, as long as those close to you have your back I feel like that is the best starting point for anyone like George.

“George stopped. It was such a short, little question, but she couldn’t make her mouth form the sounds.
Mom, what if I’m a girl?


Overall Thoughts:

I think this is a very simple and powerful book that everyone should read.

There is no bias or propaganda, Alex Gino is not trying to make you feel a certain way or change your viewpoint. He is simply telling the story of young girl who was biologically born a boy. We feel George’s internal struggle and every frustration and obstacle she has to face in her day to day life. She is on a journey, that is going to last a lifetime. We are given such a small glimpse of her life and that in itself is what made this book an emotionally compelling read.

This book covers such important themes, that I am pleased are being brought to light in such positive ways. Reading this story with its powerful use of George’s name and the pronoun She unearths discussion and issues that we need to be addressing. The ‘act’ of being transgender is not new. Caitlin Jenner did not begin this ‘movement’, but it is becoming more and more accepted in society and discussed openly…which is such a beautiful thing!

I struggle to think about those people who were transgender 10 years ago, 30 years ago, etc…Society is so unforgiving. People have such strong and intense views about the trans community and I find it heartbreaking to read and see such hateful things about people who do not have a choice! That for me is one of the more important messages in this book. A 10 year old boy does not wake up one day and decide he wants to wear dresses. He is born that way. George was born a she! 

This is a book that should be in every school library and read to every class! This teaches acceptance, love, being true to who you are, bullying and the affect this has on others. I adored this book. Do not be put of by the fact that it is a middle grade story. This book is all heart and made for all ages!


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What did you think about this book?

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Rating Report
Plot
four-half-stars
Characters
four-stars
Writing
four-half-stars
Pacing
four-stars
Cover
five-stars
Overall: four-stars