Alex Gino, in a timely and deeply thoughtful debut novel, explores what life is like for 10-year-old George. The gender George was assigned at birth doesn't reflect who she knows herself to be: "Melissa was the name she called herself in the mirror when no one was watching."

For George, it feels that there's an impenetrable divide between how she sees herself and how the world views her. Gino makes this distinction easy for young readers to follow: when George is perceived by others, they refer to George as "he." When referring to herself, George always uses "she."

George sees the perfect opportunity to bring Melissa out into the world when Ms. Udell announces auditions for a class play based on Charlotte's Web. But even Ms. Udell (who's "always going on about how we're not supposed to let people's expectations limit our choices," as George's best friend, Kelly, puts it) can't seem to broaden her perspective enough to allow George to play Charlotte.

Gino beautifully chronicles George's journey to be seen as Melissa, especially her breakthroughs and moments of honesty, such as when she finally reveals her secret to Kelly. George's struggle is portrayed realistically, with examples of how far most people need to evolve in order to be ready for her. For children who have felt like outsiders, Gino has given them a brave companion to share their path. And for children who identify with George, they may be recognizing themselves for the first time in children's literature. --Jennifer M. Brown, former children's editor, Shelf Awareness

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