Melissa by Alex Gino, 195 pp, RL 4

 

Melissa
Purchased from Barnes & Noble

In September of 2015, I reviewed Gino's debut book. A groundbreaking novel about a transgender child, the book went on to win the 2016 Stonewall Book Award in the newly created Children's category. Now, almost seven years later, Gino and their book prove groundbreaking again as the author and publisher officially change the title. In July of 2021, Gino shared a post on their blog, writing, "I made a mistake when I named my first published middle grade novel. A big mistake. I used a name for my main character that she doesn't like for herself (i.e. George, the title of the book) instead of her actual name. My main character's name is Melissa, and I apologize to her, to the larger trans community, and to all of my readers for the error. I'm sorry." Sharing the many factors that influenced the original title choice, Gino goes on to tell readers that they officially have Gino's permission to correct their copies of the book. For readers who prefer other options, you can recover your book, hardcover or paperback, or download a sticker, at Gino's Scholastic author page.

Three months later, Gino and their publisher made this announcement at On Our Minds, Scholastic's blog about books and the joys of reading, with Gino writing, 

I’m delighted to share that Scholastic and I are officially changing the title of my first book to Melissa, with a new cover available in spring 2022. It was published as George in 2015, but that’s a name the main character does not like or want to use for herself. No matter how many people have come to know it as George, we felt it was important to fix the title. What we call people matters and we all deserve to be referred to in ways that feel good to us. Calling the book Melissa is a way to respect her, as well as all transgender people. The text inside won’t change, so the name George will still appear to reflect the character’s growth within the novel, but Melissa will be the first name readers will know her by. I hope you’ll make the change with us. If you already own a copy of the book, you can make the change yourself, or you will be able to find new covers to print out on my website or on Scholastic’s website; we will share the link once the art is up. New copies of Melissa will be printed soon and available in stores in April 2022.  I appreciate all the kind words people have shared about Melissa (and Melissa), and look forward to her living on with this new, right title.


As a person who worked with children's books and children and was always conscious of the adult gatekeepers hovering on the edges of my library, I realize now that I wrote my original review of Melisswith these people in mind, resulting in a disclaimer of sorts, with the hopes of keeping them from censoring this book. Looking back today, I am embarrassed by my own ignorance and lack of understanding of the trans community, and especially trans children. And like the this important book receiving a significant title correction, I correcting my original review by replacing it with Gino's own synopsis.

When people look at George, they think they see a boy. But she knows she's not a boy. She knows she's a girl. George thinks she'll have to keep this a secret forever. Then her teacher announces that their class play is going to be Charlotte's Web. George really, really, REALLY wants to play Charlotte. But the teacher says she can't even try out for the part . . . because she's a boy. With the help of her best friend Kelly, George comes up with a plan. Not just so she can be Charlotte - but so everyone can know who she is, once and for all.

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