I have an affiliate relationship with Bookshop.org and Malaprop's Bookstore in beautiful Asheville, NC. I will earn a small commission at no additional cost to you if you purchase merchandise through links on my site. Read more on my affiliate page.
I have an affiliate relationship with Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe in beautiful Asheville, NC. I will earn a small commission at no additional cost to you if you purchase merchandise through links on my site.
Ten-year-old George loves the book, Charlotte’s Web, so when her class puts on a stage production, she is desperate to play the role of Charlotte. The only problem is that everyone sees George as a boy but George knows in her heart that she’s really a girl. The teacher refuses to cast a boy in the role and George is heartbroken. But George’s best friend Kelly has an idea….
Oh my goodness. I inhaled this book in just a few hours and it left me with so much joy for George, I was almost in tears.
George is afraid to tell anyone that she’s really a girl. What will they think? But as she slowly starts to share her secret, she finds so much love and acceptance. The road isn’t perfectly smooth—that would be too unrealistic. People who know her need some time to accept the idea, which feels fair. But watching George become the person she knows she is? It’s a priceless gift to watch her transformation and journey to self-acceptance.
I loved so many of the other characters for their reactions but I feel that I have to mention two in particular. Kelly is amazing! We all need a cheerleader like Kelly in our lives. Like everyone else, she needs some time to readjust her thinking when George shares her secret. But once Kelly gets through the adjustment period, she is all in. She gives George the courage to be who she knows she really is. She encourages George in ways that mean so much to her. Kelly is a rock star and the very definition of true friendship.
I also need to mention George’s principal. She has a miniscule role in the book but it’s an important one. She has a rainbow flag in her office along with a sign that says, “Support safe spaces for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender youth.” When she starts to suspect that there might be something a bit different about George, she hugs her and makes a point of saying, “My door is always open.” She’s not asking questions, she’s not judging, she’s accepting and making sure that a young person in her charge has a place to feel safe and a shoulder to lean on. What a difference a figure like that can make in a young person’s life!
George herself is a sweet kid who is trying so hard to fit in but she just can’t. She cries in Charlotte’s Web. She tries to avoid the school bullies, even though she can’t help being on their radar. She loves her family and Kelly and she’s so afraid of losing them if they know she’s really a girl. The stress and the inner conflict are starting to get her down. My heart broke for her inward struggles. But by the end, George was shining and I was so proud of her for having the strength to be her authentic self and to share that self with those fortunate enough to know and love her just as she is.
I highly, highly recommend this. It’s a feel-good story and it’s an easy introduction to transgender topics for readers both young and old. It’s sure to spur questions and discussions, which can only lead to a better understanding and empathy. And don’t we need all the empathy we can get in this world?
Melissa (formerly published as George) was the #1 most-challenged book in 2018 and 2019 according to the American Library Association. The reasons for the challenges are, “for LGBTQIA+ content and a transgender character; because schools and libraries should not ‘put books in a child’s hand that require discussion’; for sexual references; and for conflicting with a religious viewpoint and ‘traditional family structure.’” So books that require discussion shouldn’t be put in a child’s hands? Heck, Charlotte’s Web requires discussion! That one scene is pretty devastating to a child! That’s a ridiculous assertion. And what does “traditional family structure” look like in 2020? How about what it should look like? It should look like unconditional love and acceptance and if a book like this can help even one child either accept him- or herself or someone else as they are, it should be on shelves. Again, empathy and love are what we need so much in this world and George’s story fosters both feelings. If you as a parent are uncomfortable with a book like this, the answer is to monitor your own child’s choices; the book description is very upfront about the content. Whatever you do, don’t try to remove it from an entire community or library and thus police another child’s choices. That is way overstepping your boundaries and just not cool.
If you liked Melissa (Formerly published as George), you might also like my reviews of these banned/challenged middle grade/children’s books:
- And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
- Blubber by Judy Blume
- The Witches by Roald Dahl
Buy Melissa (formerly published as George) from Malaprop’s Bookstore in Asheville, NC.