Review: George

“The word man hit like a pile of rocks falling on George’s skull. It was a hundred times worse than boy, and she couldn’t breathe.” page 16

George by Alex Gino.

George loves Charlotte’s Web more than anyone in her class, maybe even her school.  She can’t wait to be Charlotte in the 4th grade play.  There’s only one problem – to the world, she looks like a boy, and Charlotte is a girl’s part.  But George is also holding in a big secret…  she’s really a girl.

George-small

This book has been getting a LOT of buzz in the book blogging world, particularly the diverse corner of it.  Let’s face it, there aren’t many books in general addressing the transgender experience, and I cannot think of any other fiction work for middle graders on this topic.  There are a few picture books, but the majority of works are aimed at teens and YA audiences, which is a shame, because many (not all) transgender or intersex people are dealing with this from a much younger age.

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Review: Redefining Realness

“The boundaries of gender, I was taught, were unmovable, like the glistening white rocks that surrounded Grandma’s crawfish ponds.” page 77

Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love, and So Much More by Janet Mock.
Atria, Simon and Schuster, New York, 2014.
Memoir, 263 pages including acknowledgements.
Not leveled.

Redefining Realness resized

I’d seen this book recommended multiple places before I finally bought it.  The tagline says “You will be changed by this book” and I have to say, that is entirely accurate.  Janet Mock is diverse and disadvantaged in so many ways – part Hawaiian, part African-American, transgender, from impoverished circumstances, a former sex worker, abused and traumatized as a child.  Yet out of this mix she has formed something gorgeous.

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Review: Who Are You?

THE non-fiction picture book for discussing gender with kids from age three up.

Who Are You? The Kid’s Guide to Gender Identity by Brook Pessin-Whedbee, illustrated by Naomi Bardoff.
Jessica Kingsley Publishers, Philadelphia, PA, 2017.  (First pub in the UK, London.)
Informative non-fiction picture book, 30 pages.
Not yet leveled.  (I would read it aloud or rate it at about a third grade level due to difficult words like assigned, expression, identity.)

This simple picture book is a child’s first guide to gender identity, whether trans or cis or in-between!

Who Are You cover
Who Are You? The Kid’s Guide to Gender Identity by Brook Pessin-Whedbee, illustrated by Naomi Bardoff.

As we prepared for the first Pridefest celebration with kids in tow, Husband ordered a bunch of books to read with them.  Some were (unbeknownst to him) straight off my wishlist, while others, like this delightful guide to gender, were new to me.

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Review: As Nature Made Him

“Today, with the twins having rejoined each other on the same side of the gender divide, the stark physical differences between them eerily testify to all that David has been through.” page 57

As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised As A Girl by John Colapinto.
Harper Perennial, Harper Collins, 2000, my edition 2006.
Nonfiction, 289 pages plus 18 pages of extras.
Not Leveled.

This is the story of an identical twin boy whose botched circumcision altered the course of his life (and many other children) forever.  When his parents desperately sought help, they connected with  researcher John Money, who believed gender was entirely fluid and culturally constructed and who encouraged them to reassign the baby’s sex.  Intact twin Brian was raised in his birth gender, while baby boy Bruce was raised as Brenda.  The results have had a long-term effect on gender theory and treatment of transgender and intersex children in North America.

As Nature Made Him

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Review: Twice Toward Justice

“I felt differently. I wanted to go to college. I wanted to grow up and greet the world, and so did my best friends.” p. 27

Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice by Phillip Hoose.
Square Fish Imprint, Macmillan, New York, 2009.
Age 10 + nonfiction, 150 pages including extras, notes, and index.
Winner of the National Book Award and a Newberry Honor Book.
Various other awards and best of lists.
Lexile:  1000L
AR Level:  6.8 (worth 5.0 points)

Before Rosa Parks was a household name, there was Claudette Colvin.  The first black woman (really a girl) to refuse to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus and be arrested for doing so, she knew and inspired Rosa Parks, but was not considered suitable to be the face of the movement.  Her story is now coming to light for a new generation.

Claudette Colvin Twice Toward Justice
Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice by Phillip Hoose.

This is “The acclaimed true story of the girl who changed history” according to the front cover.  What it is inside was a little different than I’d expected.  Most books by white men about black history tend to assume an authoritative, know-it-all position that often leaves out details important to the people who were living that history.

Significant portions of this book are told in the first person, taken directly from extensive interviews with Ms. Colvin herself.  Yet he is credited as the sole author.  I’m torn.  Hoose clearly made the best choice by letting Colvin’s voice shine and allowing her to narrate as much as possible of her book.  On the other hand, he is receiving all the credit.

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Review: The Warriors

“Although everyone at Weltimore wore the same school uniform, it somehow made the differences more obvious.” page 73

The Warriors by Joseph Bruchac.
Carolrhoda Books, Lerner Publishing Group, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 2003.
Middle grade sports fiction, 127 pages.
Lexile:  810L  .
AR Level:  5.5 (worth 3.0 points)  .
NOTE: Although I’m not reviewing this on Fiction Friday, it is a work of fiction.

Jake’s mother has finally decided they need to spend more time together.  He whole-heartedly agrees, but doesn’t like that this means moving off the reservation, being the only Native in a fancy school, and giving up lacrosse.  Is there any way to make his new classmates understand the true spirit of the game?

The Warriors
The Warriors by Joseph Bruchac.

Well, it had to happen eventually that I would read a book I didn’t love!  So far all the books I’ve reviewed for my #100indigenousbooks project have been great, I must really have been picking them!

To be fair, this is a sports novel, and I dislike most sporting fiction.  I felt about the same as I would about a Matt Christopher sport novel, which is pretty similar to this book.

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Graphic Novel Review: Fun Home

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel.
Mariner Books Imprint, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, New York, 2006, my edition 2007.
Graphic novel memoir, 232 pages.
Not leveled.
NOTE: This book is intended for adults, not children.

After reading a good portion of this, it felt familiar.  I think I read at least part of it before either as a library checkout, or an excerpt posted online or put in another anthology.  This was published at about the time I went through a lot of graphic novels, so it’s conceivable I read this and either did not finish or simply forgot it because of the volume of books I was reading at the time (once upon a time I used to finish a book every day).

This story explores both the author’s understanding of her sexuality and gender expression as well as her father’s death.  Bechdel comes to terms with being a butch lesbian raised in a small town by brilliant but self-absorbed parents.  She writes about how she learned about her own sexuality, coming out to her parents, being drawn to men’s clothing even as her gay father tried to feminize her, making her wear dresses and do her hair a certain way.

Fun Home cover
Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel.

Shortly after her mother asks for a divorce, her father jumps into the path of a truck while Bechdel is away at college.  There are some signs it may have been a suicide and others that it was an accident.

The story is even more darkly comedic because the Bechdel family owns the local funeral home.  This part-time job means the kids grow up playing between caskets and see bodies being embalmed at an early age.  The “Fun Home” of the title was the family’s nickname for the funeral parlor.  However the title could also refer to their family home; lovingly restored by her father with little input from the rest of the family, it was a dollhouse in which they still had to live.

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