It’s that time again: time for me to catch up on reviews after a few months of binge reading. These books were all acquired at this year’s BEA and BookCon, and I’d recommend all three.
It seems an exaggeration to compare a writer to Neil Gaiman; in fact, I don’t think I’ve ever done it before. Neil is sort of in a class of his own, because his writing is so gorgeous and chilling and magical. Lauren DeStefano’s writing is strong and magical like his, but it seems a disservice to simply say, “Oh, she’s like Neil.” She’s her own writer, a damn good one at that, and I look forward to getting my hands on some of her other books soon.
I loved Pram’s name and bravery; her eccentric, well-meaning aunts; and her gentle, devoted best friends. The narrative style is perfect: a bit of fantasy, a bit of fairy tale, a bit of dark reality. There is nothing about this book that I didn’t like…well, except for the fact that it didn’t exist when I was in elementary school. I would have adored this book as a child! (I love it now, but there’s something to be said for the love a child holds for her favorite books; it’s a different kind of relationship, I think.)
Here’s what I love about this book: it’s recommended for ages 8-12. George is the only book I’m aware of that introduces gender identity in a way that’s geared toward elementary-school-aged kids.
I was dubious of this one at first, because the synopsis sounded remarkably similar to that of Gracefully Grayson, a book I read last year. But after getting my hands on a copy at BEA, I realized that George is its own story entirely. The demographic is different, of course, but so are the writing style and the details of the story.
From the very beginning, George is referred to with female pronouns. She’s always known who she is, and the way that Alex Gino’s narrative is arranged, the reader can’t doubt this either. It’s so matter-of-fact: others see George as a boy, but she’s really a girl. That’s all. (It would be great if it was this simple in the real world, but hopefully, if enough stories are told in this manner, attitudes and prejudices will start to change.) I wonder if young readers will understand this immediately or if they will be confused at the fact that everyone else calls George “he.” Before having kids, I taught high school English; although I have very little experience with young readers, I wish I could observe an elementary school class and hear their responses to this book. We need different kinds of stories in the world, and George fills a gap that I hadn’t previously been aware of. I can’t wait to hear how kids respond to it.
I remember when The Julian Chapter was released as a Kindle single. I wasn’t buying Kindle books at the time and was sad that there wasn’t another way to get my hands on it. I was thrilled to see this book, a re-release of three Kindle singles all loosely related to August Pullman, the protagonist of R.J. Palacio’s mind-blowing Wonder.
Palacio is a master at putting the reader into someone else’s shoes. The honesty of the three accounts contained in this book is moving; each child is affected differently by knowing Auggie, in ways both good and bad. I felt a sympathy toward each of them, to the initial shock they felt when seeing Auggie’s face, the obligations they felt to be nice to Auggie even though it made them less popular. I never would have thought I’d feel sympathetic to Julian, but his tale reminds the reader that everyone is going through more than meets the eye. This is a beautiful addition to the Wonderverse, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to read it.
Also, Christopher’s mother calls him “Honeyboy,” a term of endearment that I was sure I’d invented. It made me smile.