Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Review: The Thing About Georgie

Fourth-grader Georgie has a good life. He has loving, talented parents--both professional musicians. He has a best friend, Andy, with whom he runs a profitable dog-walking business. He has a crush on the prettiest girl in his grade. And, oh yeah, he's also a dwarf.

Georgie has become used to the special accommodations made for him in school and at home. The janitor has placed his coat hook lower than those for the other students. His parents have taped Popsicle sticks to light switches so Georgie can reach them without trouble. And Georgie has become used to the staring and comments ever-present in his life.

All of a sudden, however, everything changes in Georgie's life. His best friend wants to include another boy, Russ, in the dog-walking business. Georgie just can't accept that Andy may make other friends and his jealousy messes up their friendship. Jeanie the Meanie, the kid everyone has known and despised since kindergarten for her erratic and sometimes cruel behavior, has made Georgie her own special project. And, Georgie's parents make a big announcement: Georgie is going to be a big brother! And the new not a dwarf:
  • "One day this kid, the one who wasn't even born yet, was going to be bigger than he was. It wouldn't take very long either; there were five-year-olds the same height as Georgie. Somehow it had never bothered him too much before. Georgie was short, and all those other kids weren't. But the thought of some kid living in his own home, growing taller every single day made him seriously queasy." (p. 43)

Georgie's predicament, on the surface of things, seems unique. But what I really love about The Thing About Georgie is that Georgie's story is really one of growing up, of figuring out who you are, and of opening your heart to others. Georgie, in the end, isn't much different from his peers. True, he's a dwarf and people sometimes stare at him. True, his parents will be having another child, one who is more "perfect" than he may be. But other people have problems too. His friend Andy, for example, has to share a room with his immigrant grandmother. And, Jeanie has to work against years of being the bad kid in her class, as well as having to deal with a difficult family life and attention issues. In the end, Georgie realizes that, yes, he has his problems and, yes, he's a unique individual, but, yes, he's not so very different in his individuality than anyone else.

Lisa Graff's debut novel, The Thing About Georgie, is a novel Middle Grade readers will enjoy greatly. It's also a book perfect for the 3rd-6th grade classroom read aloud. Graff has structured the novel in an ingenious way. Each chapter is introduced by a "handwritten" account of what it's like to live as a dwarf ("Stretch your right arm high up to the sky. Now reach across the top of your head and touch your your left ear....Did you know you could do that? Well, Georgie can't"), but the struggles that follow are universal. The Thing About Georgie is the type of book that any pre-Middle Schooler will appreciate: each child has individual issues, but together they can deal with anything.

The Truth About Georgie is highly recommended for readers ages eight and up.