Community Reads are powerful because of the way they bring people together to participate in a shared experience. The FCBF seeks to choose books that are timely, build community identity, and increase empathy–books like George.

As you read George by Alex Gino for the 2021 Fox Cities Reads, please remember we’re all doing so together. We’re reading together, we’re growing together, and together we make our community a better place.

As part of this reading journey, we want to share personal accounts from a few community members who have already finished George. Read on–you may see yourself in their experiences.

Personal Reflections on reading George by Alex Gino

“It is important for kids and their families to read George because it will help them understand transgender people. I asked my mom if we could send a letter to the Fox Cities Reads because I felt connected to the main character. I hope other kids will learn from this book and be kind to others, no matter their differences.” – Gwen, a 7-year-old reader who recommended George as the 2021 selection

Jess Thiel headshot


Jessica Thiel

FCBF Board Member

I may be well past the age of the protagonist of George, but Alex Gino’s tale of a child who everyone sees as a boy but who secretly knows she’s a girl resonated with me on a lot of levels—as a former middle school social pariah, a parent, and someone who wants to be a better ally to the LGBTQ community.

While George focuses on a child who is coming to grips with being transgender, I think anyone who’s ever felt “other” could relate to the struggles of George/Melissa. Their story brought to mind my own school experiences. Middle school—we called it junior high “in my day”—was particularly awful. I was a scrawny outcast with a speech impediment, a bad haircut, and a rough last name—Ceman, pronounced “semen.” It did not go well for me.

I also learned from George’s mother’s journey of accepting her child as someone different than she’d imagined. As the mother of three sons, 12, 15 and 18, I know well that parenting, and our children’s paths and personalities, rarely turns out as you’d envisioned. 

One of the parts of the book I valued most was the Q&A with the author at the end of the book. The section includes practical and compassionate advice and addresses issues and questions I’ve struggled with in how to refer to and interact with people who are trans. I particularly liked this piece of advice: “Probably the most important thing is using someone’s name and pronouns. Try to get it right. No, really. Try hard. This is the least you can do for someone who has shared personal information with you.” My takeaway: Make it about the other person and not your own discomfort. Empathy is always the answer. 

“George is a book I wish I’d had to read when I was growing up. It’s vitally important for children to be able to see children like themselves being supported through difficult transitions by their friends, community, and family.” – Wendy Bolm

Kara Patterson headshot

Kara Patterson


Kara Patterson

FCBF Board Member

I’ve always been a word person.

And I treasure those people in my childhood years who empowered, uplifted, championed, supported, and, most importantly, validated that.

They noticed who I was. They saw me. They got me. 

 What was most powerful for me about reading George, this year’s Fox Cities Reads, was witnessing the beauty of what happens when people see others as they are. 

It’s important for anyone in any season of life, but I found myself reflecting upon growing up (as the main character of George is in fourth grade).

I remembered:

The poet at my church who took the time to share some of his work with me, and encourage my budding interest in writing poetry, too.

The library employee who noticed me often hanging around the summer reading program table and introduced me to what would become some of my favorite epic fantasy series.

The outreach coordinator who gave me a tour of the local paper, and an opportunity to write about my experiences as a journalism exercise. 

My hope for fellow readers of George is that this book would provide a safe space for reflection on–and maybe even prompt discussion about –times in their lives when others saw them for who they are, and why it matters.

Happy Reading!

Please read George by Alex Gino soon to be a part of this incredible, community-wide reading event. You can check out physical or digital copies from your local library, purchase the book from one of our local bookstores like The Book Shop, or buy online at our affiliate partner Bookshop which supports the FCBF and indie bookstores.

Finally, please be sure to RSVP for Alex Gino’s public presentation on April 15 at 6:30 PM. This Facebook event page includes the Zoom link to register for the free event.