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.
George is a very important book. Gino takes a very complex subject and makes it accessible to children, but doesn’t oversimplify it either, making it a challenging and thought provoking read. In fact, its simplicity is the reason it is so successful. George aims to tells a story; no lessons are forced on its readers, no points are trying to be made. All it does is tell a story with straightforward honesty, making George accessible and pertinent.
Yes, there are much more complex ways of handling the topic, and yes, much more needs to be said about gender, but at the end of the day, George is a children’s book. I strongly believe that it’s very important for children learn these messages from a young age and George is an excellent way to start the discussion.
I took a class on gender in my first year of university and the main theme was how gender is a product of society not biology, and that people should be able to express themselves any way that choose. And George is a perfect example of why we, as a society, need to stop being so narrow minded about gender. George is confused, lonely and scared, but her story has a happy ending of gradual acceptance, sending out a positive and hopeful message.
George received some criticism about its use of gender stereotypes, but I’d argue that gender is presented in a very complex way. Gender stereotypes seem ridiculous when presented so matter of factly, but that does not mean that George is sexist, just that society is. You are meant to look at parts of George, such as boys and girls lining up in different lines and having to play gendered roles in school plays and be outraged. When George is told that she does not make a very good boy because she doesn’t like violent video games and is sensitive, we are meant to take a step back and reevaluate the ways we treat boys and girls. While George wishes to be a girly-girl, it is made quite clear that this is not the way all women should behave. George’s mother is specifically mentioned as wearing pants and no makeup to work and comments that women are beautiful just the way they are. Scott, George’s older brother, is initially presented as a stereotypical teenage boy, but is surprisingly open-minded and understanding. For such a short middle grade novel, there is a lot to packed in.
I’d imagine that reading this book along with children would be an excellent way to start a discussion on gender.