That pronoun at the end of the first paragraph blew right by me. I read through the first sentence of George and mentally settled in. My eyes skipped past the first “she,” but the second one, at the start of the second paragraph stopped me. I scanned back to the first paragraph and there it was, a clue, plain as day, that this book was not like most of the others that have worked their way across my path.
I read on about secret magazine stashes, memorized lines, breathtaking performances and clothing choices that society sees as gender inappropriate for a child born a boy. Here’s the deal, though: When I see a book like this, I see my children’s generation in the characters. George’s principal, for instance, shows compassion. George’s best friend and her brother both love her for who she is on the inside. In other characters though, I see my generation, and those that came before me. Characters who assume life is as simple as a binary code. This book shows that life isn’t that simple.
My favorite part of the book is the build up to and performance of Charlotte’s Web. I sat transfixed as our author took us back stage to witness George shrug off society’s oppressive insistence that she deny her true self. Those transformative moments are part of what I love about reading. Sometimes those moments, like life, break our hearts. Conversely, they can be transcendent, lifting us above the hate and pain. Also, I love the analogy of misunderstanding that exists in comparing those two characters: George and Charlotte.
The thing I like most about George/Melissa, is that she isn’t confused at all. I see a character who is completely confident in who she wants to be. She’s fine with using feminine pronouns and I’m fine with it too. My son and daughter wouldn’t even blink an eye. This is their world, one in which I want to live.
Much apologies to Kittle and Gallagher, but the most powerful session I attended at the ILA Conference this summer was in the middle of the day, in a cavernous room, way in the back of the Austin Convention Center. This was a panel filled with authors who wrote books which included LGBTQ characters. Each panelist told the story of the first time they saw themselves in a book. Ashley Herring Blake, author of several books, including Girl Made of Stars, told her powerful story: Finally, in her thirties, this married, mom of two, read about a character who was bi-sexual. She hadn’t finished her thought before Amazon scheduled delivery of her book to my house.
I get it. George isn’t about “bi-sexuality.” What I’m trying to say is that we have to get more books into classroom libraries that allow us to learn about inclusion while learning about what makes us different.
Blake, A. H. (2018). Girl Made of Stars. Boston, MA: HMH Books for Young Readers.
Gino, A. (2015). George. New York, NY: Scholastic.
White, E. B. (1952). Charlotte’s Web. New York, NY: Harper & Brothers.
Charles Moore read George in one sitting. He’s finally caught up on his yard work and will drive his old corvette to the football game tonight. He loves his kids, his wife, and his life. If you care to see what he’s ranting about, check out his twitter and if you want to see more of his writing, and the writing of those far more intelligent, check out www.threeteacherstalk.com