Sadly, up until the last few years, it has been challenging to find young adult books about people who are not white, and straight, and middle class. Not that books about other people don't exist, but there are fewer of them. We Need Diverse Books has been working on exactly this issue, fighting to get publishers, librarians, awards committees, and everyone else involved in children and young adult literature to promote books that reflect the experiences of all children. I think we have this organization to thank for the fact that we are seeing more books about racial and ethnic minorities, disabled people, and LGBTQ youth. This is great for all of the children who can now see themselves and their families reflected in the books they read, but also for all other youth who are given the opportunity to see the world from the perspective of someone different from them.
Recently there have been so many great young adult books that speak to the realities of LGBTQ youth. There have been titles that directly address these youth like Boy Meets Boy, and Will Grayson, Will Grayson, but also books like Gabi, a Girl in Pieces, where the main character's friend coming out is a smaller plot point, but it isn't the main story. These books are wonderful additions to any school or public library and should be in the hands of teens. For the most part though, there are far fewer books featuring LGBTQ children. When we look at picture books and middle grade novels, there are a lot more books that feature gay parents or other family members, but rarely the children themselves. A new book by Alex Gino, George, is a book that addresses this hole in the literature, and does it really beautifully.
This book should be required reading for anyone who works with children, or who wish to understand the experience of a transgender youth. My only concern for this book is who the intended audience is. While Booklist and School Library Journal both say this is for 4th to 6th graders, in my experience six graders do not read books with ten year old protagonists. For the younger readers who could identify with George and her classmates, the talk at the beginning of the book about dirty magazines and a locked bathroom door introduces ideas that not all fourth graders are ready for. This is by no means an indictment of the books, but adults who live and work with children reading it should be prepared for some discussions about it.
As George points out, while gays and lesbians have become more accepted in our society, the transgender community is still largely hidden and misunderstood. This novel will help to guide some understanding and acceptance.