George by Alex Gino; Scholastic, $16.99 Ages 9 to 12
This pitch-perfect novel of the transgender experience is aimed at middle-grade readers, and it is a revelation. It’s about a fourth grader named George, a boy who knows he’s a girl. The use of an omniscient narrator referring to George as “she” (while friends, teachers, an older brother, George’s mom view George as a boy) is a very effective way of depicting the excruciating agony, the day-to-day uncomfortable realities of being forced to keep one’s basic identity a secret. George is bullied by a boy at school but is fortunate to have a best friend, Kelly, and a sympathetic older brother she can finally confide in. Things come to a crisis when the school play of “Charlotte’s Web” divides casting along strict gender lines and George finds the courage to make her true self known. Gino ends the novel with a lovely final chapter, a liberating trip George takes with Kelly and her uncle to the Bronx Zoo. This is the debut novel from Gino, who “wrote it because it was the book I wanted to read. I wanted trans voices telling trans stories.” – Jean Westmoore
Toys Meet Snow by Emily Jenkins, illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky; Schwartz & Wade Books, 40 pages, $17.99. Ages 3 to 7.
There has never been a funnier, more charming depiction of the wonder of a first encounter with snow than in this delightful picture book debut of toy friends Lumphy, StingRay and Plastic from Jenkins-Zelinsky’s “Toys” trilogy for slightly older readers. With their little girl owner away on winter vacation, her toy friends go outdoors to explore the snow. Caldecott winner Zelinsky’s full-color illustrations are glorious (the three friends gazing out a window at a world in white, Lumphy straining to reach the door knob, the impressions in the snow from the toys’ snow angels.) Lumphy wonders what snow is. StingRay says: “It’s a blanket of peace over the world.” Plastic, the realist (a beach ball): “No it’s frozen water. I read it in a book.”
– Jean Westmoore