George, a fourth-grader who knows she is a girl, despite appearances, begins to tell her secret.
The word “transgender” is used midway through, but far more work is done by the simple choice to tell George’s story using third-person narration and the pronouns “she” and “her.” Readers then cringe as much as George herself when bullies mock her or—perhaps worse—when well-meaning friends and family reassure her with sentiments like “I know you’ll turn into a fine young man.” Each year the fourth-graders at George’s school perform a dramatized version of Charlotte’s Web, the essentials of which are lovingly recapped (and tear-inducing ending revealed) for readers unfamiliar with the tale. George becomes convinced that if she plays Charlotte, her mom will finally see her as a girl. George’s struggles are presented with a light, age-appropriate, and hopeful touch. The responses she gets when she begins to confide in those closest to her are at times unexpected but perfectly true-to-character—most notably her crude older brother’s supportive observation that, “No offense, but you don’t make a very good boy.” A coda to the Charlotte’s Web story, in which George presents herself as a girl for the first time, is deeply moving in its simplicity and joy.
Warm, funny, and inspiring. (Fiction. 9-12)