George, an SCBWI Book Review

Welcome to my first SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) book review!

George Cover

Click the picture to go to the Amazon page for George!

This is one of the few books I managed to get signed.  I had to skip the autograph session on Sunday, due to reasons, but Alex Gino had a signing on a different day.  I loved meeting them.  I especially loved their sense of humor, so similar to my own.

George Signed

Diapers cost money, okay?  Liz, Martyn, and Micah understood that I couldn’t afford to buy them all hardcovers.

On to the review!

Book: George by Alex Gino

Genre: Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction

Recommendation: Buy it!

Run-On Sentence Synopsis: George, who calls herself Melissa in her own head, is a transgender girl in the fourth grade who is struggling to come to terms with her gender identity and make herself known as the girl she is, and she desperately wants to play Charlotte in her class’ play of Charlotte’s Web, but she encounters obstacles in the form of school bullies and her teacher who believes a boy simply can’t play Charlotte, and as Melissa gains confidence she faces the kind of adversity you’d (unfortunately) expect her to face because the world suffers from an overpopulation of narrow-minded dickweasels.

Positive Feedback: If I had to describe this novel in one word, it would be “accessible.”  Though it is middle grade, I believe that anyone could pick it up and enjoy it.  Better yet, I believe people can learn from it.  From the sounds of things, they already have.  Another word I’d use is “emotional.”  As I read, I could truly feel myself embroiled in Melissa’s inner turmoil, her sadness, her frustration, and her desperation to be the real her.  She is a well-developed character, her struggle is believable, and the story has the right blend of sad and heartwarming moments.  It is definitely difficult to put this book down.

Constructive Criticism (I refuse to call it negative feedback): While I’m aware I am not the target audience for this book, I still felt that the stakes could have been raised just a little higher.  There was so much riding on the play, and the antagonism from Melissa’s teacher and the boy who bullies her, but the pay-off was that everything worked out easy peasy (though that’s probably not how Melissa felt).  Alex Gino already pointed out that this was because LGBTQ youth deserve happy stories with “happily ever after” endings just as much as non-LGBTQ youth.  I get it.  But still, a little push to heighten the tension would have made the book a little more captivating.  I also wish I could have seen more depth from some of the characters, but as there were many characters, and it’s a short book, I understand why Gino couldn’t go in depth with every single one of Melissa’s acquaintances.  Also, there were times when I wasn’t sold on the dialogue, but I feel the target audience would have been.  Over all, these are small nitpicks, and the book is a great read.

A Note on Identity: When people (namely narrow-minded dickweasels) hear the phrase, “I identify as…” I don’t think they stop to consider what the words “identify” and “identity” mean.  Identity comes from within.  Outward characteristics and physical appearance don’t actually define someone as much as some might think.  Identity comes from likes and dislikes, what makes you passionate, angry, scared, sad, excited.  It’s nuanced and beautiful, and unique to every individual.  I identify as straight and (cis) female.  I identify as a pre-published author, a wife, a mother, a teacher, a nerd, and a Jewish Atheist.  Even if someone walked up to me and said, “You don’t look Jewish.  You look Christian,”  I’d still be able to say, “That may be, but I assure you I am Jewish.  You cannot dictate my identity to me.  I say to you, good day!”

In the same way, if someone has outward characteristics that make them appear male or female (to you), that ultimately plays second fiddle to how that person feels on the inside.  We cannot force a gender identity on someone any more than we can force a religion on them, or a different name, or a different favorite food, favorite animal, phobia, sexual orientation, race, culture, political party, et-freaking-cetera.

You don’t have to love every other human being on this planet, but you do have to accept their right to live and be who they are, just as they should accept the same about you.

*Steps off soapbox*

Buy George.  It’s great.  Next review will be Written in the Stars, by Aisha Saeed.  Until then!

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Filed under books, Humor, LGBTQ, writing

AAAHHHHHHH!!!!!

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

HHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

AAAHHHH

Wow okay.  So I’m back.  It turns out when you get pregnant and then get a full-time job teaching eighth grade English, it doesn’t leave a lot of time for blogging.  I’m still teaching, but now I’m doing it in North Dakota.  Yeah, I move a lot.  But I finally have time to blog because it’s summer vacation.  Woo.

Also, my son is adorable just so you know.   I don’t want to post his picture on the Internet, so here’s an artist’s rendition instead:

He has one dimple. It's adorable.

In 18 years, if he consents, I’ll put up a baby picture.  If our robot overlords allow it.

As a mother, I am thrilled.  He is awesome.

As a mother with anxiety, I am terrified constantly.  What if he like… you know… tries things?  Like when he grows up and stuff… he might want to do something.  That freaks me out.  So I’m considering writing a line of children’s books for anxious mothers to read to their young kids.  Titles will include:

The Little Engine That Stayed Within Its Means

Content George

The Very Hungry Caterpillar Who Nonetheless Understood the Value of Portion Control

Maybe I’ll write those one day.  In the meantime, I’ve got a lot of reading to do.  I just returned from the 2017 SCBWI conference in LA, and boy do I have a stack of books.  As such, I think I will herald my return with a series of SCBWI book reviews.  These will be short posts about the books I purchased while at the conference.  A brief preview of the titles to come:

George by Alex Gino

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed

And more!

So keep an eye out because I’m back, and I’m ignoring the fact that I stopped mid-project when last I wrote.  I’ll leave the posts up because whatever, but I’m thinking this blog is going to need to be organized in some way.  There are sooooo many posts.  They maybe need to be culled.  Yet another project for another time.

Toodles for now!

P.S. Happy Birthday, Micah!!!

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Character Bible Part 3 – Rath*

I’m going to say right here and now that I am not going to be updating very frequently (as if you couldn’t already tell) because I’m ghostwriting a novel at the moment.  Writing a full-length novel is pretty tiring, so I don’t exactly finish my work for the day and then go, “Boy, I can’t wait to sit down and compose a blog post!”  It’s more like, “Boy, I can’t wait to just lie here like a damp potato until I get hungry enough to roll out of bed and forage for food in the fridge!”  Plus there’s the constant fear that this book idea won’t hold up, and then I’ll have done all these posts for nothing.  You know, the usual stuff.

That being said, here’s what I know about Rath*, whose name absolutely needs to change.  It was supposed to be a play on “wrath” with the inclusion of “Ra,” because he was originally supposed to be some sort of shadowy memory of the Egyptian sun god.  It’s a long story, but basically the first idea of this book was that this “planet” would be occupied by ancient ideas that had lost power.  Something really dumb like that.  I abandoned that idea long ago, so “Rath” has to go.

My inspiration for Rath* came from a couple different sources.  His look and personality is a little bit based on characters like the Prock from The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles (no picture available) and a demon from The Phantom Tollbooth known as the Terrible Trivium.  Pictured here:

Terrible Trivium

The running theme is we have a well-dressed, smooth-talking, third-hyphenated-descriptor type of character.  Now, since I decided that we’re looking at a slave race on a prison planet, the “well dressed” bit probably has to go.  But I still see Rath* as a smooth character who is a natural leader and who easily takes things in stride without showing fear or doubt.  That’s why he’s the leader of the wee rebel group.

Joss throws a wrench into things for just this reason.  Because she becomes like a daughter to Rath*, (I’m gonna stop putting asterisks on his name because I think you get it) she makes him start second guessing himself.  Some of the rebels in their group actually see Joss as a weakness, and they resent her for turning their leader soft.  They still work with her, of course, but there is underlying tension.  This is one of the ways I’m going to attempt to avoid the Mary Sue cliche with Joss.

Rath and another character, Thea, have basically the same origin story.  Rath is part Delliakite, and Thea is all Delliakite (You’ll see her later).  They came from the same cell block, as it were.  I wrote out a tentative backstory for them, but it’s too much like District 13 from The Hunger Games, so I’m reworking it.  Basically they tried to rebel and it had horrible consequences so they ran away together to live off of the Overseer’s radar.

I don’t have concept art for Rath because I am really bad at drawing at the best of times, and drawing a human/alien hybrid is probably beyond my ability.  I’m afraid he’ll come out too cartoony.  Maybe I’ll attempt it one day, but today is not that day.

Oh, Rath has powers.  Unlike Paxton, the loser.  It’s unclear how much of this is just really good psychological manipulation and how much is really happening, but he has shadow powers.  He can disappear into shadow and manipulate shadow so that it gets really dark in certain areas, and he can use shadows to grab people and trap their legs and stuff.  He’s kind of like a phantom in that way, where he plays on people’s fears.  But heart of gold blah blah blah.

At some point in the story, Rath gets captured and put in the super scary prison thing.  I’ve been calling it “the tomb.”  It’s basically where prisoners get a small probe on their heads that traps them in their own minds, slowly driving them crazy.  They’re sealed into closet-sized rooms and left there for indeterminate periods of time.  Rumor has it (in the book) that the inventor of the brain device tested it on himself, and went insane as a result.

Anyway, so Rath gets captured, and it just so happens that Paxton’s mom ended up in the same prison.  So the rest of the gang has a reason to work together with Paxton.  See how that works?  And then Paxton’s mom can stay alive so he doesn’t have the typical superhero origin story.

Okay that’s enough for today.  Next time maybe I’ll do Thea so you know what a Delliakite is.  I can already tell you that ensemble casts are hard, so I’m probably going to axe a character or two.  We’ll see.

Bye for now!

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