by Ellen Wittlinger

Books about transgender youth are few and far between and Parrotfish is a... read more

Books about transgender youth are few and far between and Parrotfish is a welcome addition to this small body of literature. Grady is a teenage boy trapped in the body of a girl named Angela Katz-McNair. He’s just made the difficult decision to come out at home and at school at the same time, to tell people who he really is, and to start living life as a boy. His family—particularly his mother—has difficulty accepting him as Grady. But his home life is easy compared to what he faces at school, where most of his fellow students view him as strange at best, and perverted at worst. His best friend since early childhood rejects him, and he is bullied by Danya, a popular girl who has much of the student body under her thumb. Grady finds a new friend in Sebastian, a short, funny kid that he’s never paid much attention to before. Sebastian is excited about Grady’s change on an intellectual level because he’s in the midst of doing a school report on the parrotfish, a species known for changing its gender from female to male in order to survive. Other students and teachers at the school show a range of reactions, from the principal who refuses to alter Grady’s school records to acknowledge the change to the wonderful gym teacher who allows Grady to use the private shower connected to her office. And while the students at first viewed Grady as an oddity, most of them come around to tolerating him, if not outright accepting him. Grady has a habit of thinking in dialogue, often imagining what others must be saying about him or rewriting the words he wished he had said. This skill comes in handy in the book’s resolution, which underscores the themes of learning to accept change, to stop playing proscribed roles, and to be oneself. (Age 14 and older)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2008

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