When searching for a middle grade book (for readers aged around 10+) with a trans protagonist, I was looking to find one that had been written from a position of understanding as I’d read another that just didn’t feel authentic. I’m really glad, therefore, that I came across George as Alex Gino has written such a thought-provoking, honest story. Melissa is a transgender girl who hasn’t shared this part of herself with anyone else – at birth she was named George. Her class is to perform Charlotte’s Web in school and Melissa is desperate to play Charlotte; however, she isn’t even allowed to audition for the part because her teacher sees her as a boy. With the help of her best friend, Kelly, Melissa thus comes up with a way to allow her to be Charlotte and for people to finally know who she is.
George – which the author now calls Melissa’s Story (and I believe is due to be re-published with that title) is a true ‘mirrors and windows’ read for me: some readers will be able to put themselves at the heart of the story and others will gain an insight into Melissa’s experience as a transgender girl. Without realising it at the time, I bought the Scholastic Gold version of the book, which contains some useful information on trans issues at the end of the story, including the use of pronouns, where to get support and how to be supportive. Alex Gino makes a really valid point in this additional content: reading this story does not mean that readers will fully understand transgender people and issues. Every transgender story is unique, just as every person is unique, shaped by experiences and realities faced throughout life.
There’s a quote from Sarah Weeks on the back cover of the book that sums up the story perfectly: “This is an important book… but more importantly, it’s a really good book”.
Author: Alex Gino
Cover Art & Design: Ellen Duda