Reading The Rainbow is an original regular feature at Musings From Neville’s Navel. I’m a queer bookworm who loves to geek out about books and LGBTQ+ topics, so why not talk about both subjects at once?! Basically, I review books with queer characters and/or themes, discuss the pros and cons of each, and tell you which stories are worth your time!
Author: Alex Gino
Genre: Middle grade, contemporary
Length: 240 pages
Published by: Scholastic Press
Date of publication: 2015
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 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.
Previous Reading The Rainbow posts may be found here.
I didn’t feel very well on my birthday – I was exhausted, and I had a headache. I couldn’t seem to make myself focus on my schoolwork for very long. I finally told myself, “SCREW THIS, IT’S MY BIRTHDAY” and took the day off from homework in order to read read READ. One of the books I read that day was George by Alex Gino. Not only did it make me forget about my headache (and general grumpiness), it was an excellent birthday present to myself as well.
I love middle-grade novels: They’re short, with simple plots, and often ridiculously adorable. George is all three of those things. I read this book in about… an hour? An hour and a half, tops? It was just what I needed on that day – a cute, lighthearted story that made me GRIN LIKE A DORK multiple times.
I loved George – or, to use her real name, Melissa. SHE WAS ADORABLE. I kept feeling like I needed to hug her and, like, read all of the cute stories to her. (That is what small children are for, obviously.) She spoke, thought, and acted like a real ten-year-old girl, which impressed me because I think a lot of authors have trouble accurately portraying children. Many authors do a good job of writing about teenagers, so I guess it’s just harder to write kids – maybe because more time has elapsed since they themselves were children? I don’t know. At any rate, MELISSA IS THE ACTUAL BEST.
I loved the secondary characters, too. Melissa’s BFF Kelly was so cute and sweet and understanding! Melissa’s older brother was kind too, and her mom… well, her mom took a little bit longer to accept her transgender daughter, but in the end it all worked out! I REALLY appreciated the positivity in this book – we need more like it! LGBTQ+ BOOKS WITH HAPPY ENDINGS ARE SO IMPORTANT TO ME.
LGBTQ+ books for children are equally important. There aren’t many, though – I mean, there are SOME, but we need MORE. I welcome each and every new LGBTQ+ children’s and/or middle grade book! I loved that George was a long story… OK, at 240 pages it isn’t that long, but compared to some of the other LGBTQ+ children’s lit I’ve found (AKA picture books), it’s ginormous. I was so happy to find an LGBTQ+ book for kids that wasn’t over in 32 pages.
Also! The author, Alex Gino, is genderqueer… YAY FOR QUEER PEOPLE WRITING QUEER BOOKS. While there is decent LGBTQ+ literature by cishet authors out there, it’s so important to read (and watch!) LGBTQ+ stories written by actual LGBTQ+ people because they have far more expertise and personal experience with the lives of their characters. (If you want to know more, I suggest you check out Gino’s explanation of of the title and Melissa’s name, gender identity, and pronouns!)
I would recommend this book to…
- Kids in elementary and/or middle school
- Parents and teachers
- Anyone who’s looking for a cute, fun, quick read
Basically? George is amazing. AMAZING. After I finished it, my face hurt from smiling so much – not only because this book is RIDICULOUSLY ADORABLE and Melissa is a great protagonist, but because it makes me happy to think about all the little kids out there who are questioning their gender. They’ll have this book. They can grow up with it.
The first YA novel with a trans protagonist – Luna by Julie Anne Peters – was published only a little over a decade ago, in 2004, and the first children’s and middle grade books with a trans protagonist appeared a few years after that. So George is still a big deal. I hope it makes a difference in the lives of many children. I think it will.