George looks like a 10 year old boy, but inside he knows that he is really a girl. In his own private mind he calls himself Melissa, and dreams of the day he can dress in girl clothes and maybe even try makeup. He hides his true identity from the world, but it is easy for the kids in his class to see that he is different and to tease him and even bully him about it. His one salvation is his best friend, Kelly, who has always accepted George just the way he was. When George's class does a play of Charlotte's Web, George really wants to play the part of Charlotte, but when he tries out for the part his teacher thinks it is a joke. He can't play Charlotte, because he is a boy, right? When George finally has the courage to tell Kelly he is really a girl, Kelly arranges to find a way for George to get his chance to play Charlotte and show the world, and his mother who he/she really is.
This is really the first book aimed at pre-teens that portrays a transgender person. It has received starred reviews all over the place, and it does portray a very sympathetic character. Gino, who lists his/her gender as "undefined" writes from experience and has a unique insight on what it feels like to always have to pretend you are something that you feel you are not. I read the book because I wanted to be ready when we get complaints about it at the library. I think there are many in our community that would be really upset if their nine year old picked up the book and started reading about a transgender child without the parent's knowledge. I am in a position that I could recommend that the book be moved out of the regular J Fiction area into the nonfiction area about gender issues to avoid future controversy. But I don't think I will. Even if someone doesn't believe transgender is a real thing,--that a girl's spirit could be put in a boy's body--some people obviously do, and it doesn't hurt to gain some insight into how they feel. (195 p)