I love books that reflect on books. Rebecca Stead’s When You Reach Me shows Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time in a new light. Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein reads like a love letter to the best books in children’s literature. Now, we have George. George, the title character, wants desperately to play the role of Charlotte in her class’s production of Charlotte’s Web. Not only does she love Charlotte’s dialogue and the idea of playing such an iconic role, but she knows that playing Charlotte will show the world who she is on the inside, not the boy that everyone sees on the outside.
Charlotte is exactly the literary character to help facilitate George’s longing. Charlotte is welcoming, “Salutations!” She’s supportive, “Some Pig.” But most of all, she’s smart; she’s a critical thinker and she demonstrates agency. Charlotte knows what will happen to Wilbur before he does, and in order to protect him she facilitates a change in the way the world views Wilbur. After Charlotte saves Wilbur, she passes her legacy to the next generation. We all know these things about Charlotte, which is why she has remained one of the most beloved characters in children’s literature. Having Charlotte as George’s inspiration is fitting. Kids, particularly kids like George, need to be welcomed. They need support. And they need people around them who are critical thinkers, who demonstrate agency, and who can change world perception. Moreover, George needs to see herself as Charlotte, because she too needs to be welcoming, supportive, thoughtful, and possessing agency to make change.
Readers will find themselves cheering for George and hoping that she will have the chance to become such an iconic character, and maybe even change the world. In turn, they will be inspired to become everything that Charlotte and George represent. The tag line for George is “Be who you are,” something Charlotte taught us years ago, but Alex Gino’s book takes this classic message and reframes it for a new generation. Terrific.
~ Sara, Eight Cousins
A wise friend (Sara from Eight Cousins) told me that books are windows through which we can see other’s worlds or mirrors which give us an opportunity to see ourselves in print. As a teacher librarian for 5th and 6th graders, I cannot express how much I feel George has to offer my students. I absolutely loved it, and believe that it could help build such a sense of community for my students by providing some with empathy and others with a sense of belonging.
Before I became a library teacher, I taught 5th grade for years. To my knowledge, I have only had one transgender student. Yet, this book gives me pause and makes me realize that I could have had many, many more. If that student, or students, had George to read, I think they would have felt so much less isolated, and far less tortured.
I think George is a must-have for any middle school library. I absolutely loved this book, miss George now that I am done reading and can’t wait to purchase it and put in on the shelves in August!
~ Mrs. Abbott, Librarian