Friday, April 30, 2010

31. Parrotfish

Wittlinger, Ellen. Parrot Fish. ISBN: 978-1416916222. Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing. First Edition, 2007.

Plot Summary
Angela McNair lives in a pretty typical family. Her sister is interested in popularity, her brother in video games, and her father loves to go overboard with the family Christmas decorations. The only thing not so normal is that Angela wants to be a boy with the name Grady. Angela's father and brother are fairly accepting of the decision to changer genders, but Mrs. Mcnair and Angela's best friend couldn't be more confused. Angela's decision to become Grady and change genders makes her the target of Danya the school bully. Grady makes an unlikely friend in Sebastian, the resident social school geek, and depends on his friendship for support during this difficult transition in his new life. Grady also receives support from his school gym teacher, who defends his choice in the face of bullying and a less than professional principal. During this difficult transition Grady has his first encounter with young love and his family learns to throw out traditional ideas and to be accepting of new ones.

Critical Evaluation
Parrotfish explores the difficult time of transitioning between genders for a young high school girl wising to become a boy. This difficult and very sensitive issue is written in a very straightforward and thoughtful way. Wittlinger makes the issue of changing gender a very comfortable and confident decision for Grady to make and through her comparisons with other species in the animal world, readers discover just how common the desire to change genders actually is. This narrative is driven by the strong voice of Grady and his comedic internal dialogue.

Parrotfish would make a great introductory piece for people interested in understanding gender and gender identity, as well as for teens looking for a means to cope with their own gender issues. The tone of the novel is very confident, helping to demonstrate just how natural and right the decision to change genders must feel for those who wish to. Grady develops into a stronger individual as the novel progresses. He develops confidence to stand up to the school bully and even to pursue the girl of his dreams. Parrotfish is a novel that can help to inform readers about transgender issues while also entertaining through interesting characters and the use of comedic internal dialogue.

Reader's Annotation
Angela wants to be a boy. Today is the day that Angela becomes Grady, and her high school life is shaken upside down.

Author Information
Ellen Wittlinger was born in the small town of Belleville, Illinois in 1948. Wittlinger received a Master's of Fine Arts degree from the University of Iowa and published her first book of poetry Breakers in 1979. She continued writing poetry and plays until she took on a new career as a children's librarian. During her time as a children's librarian, Wittlinger developed a fondness for young adult fiction and from that moment on she began to write for teens. Wittlinger first young adult novel Lombardo's Law was published in 1993.


Curriculum Ties
transgender issues

Book Talking Ideas
Discuss difference between sexuality and gender.
Describe how Grady feels about his decision to come out.
Re-enact excerpt from Christmas play.

Reading Level
grades 9+

Challenge Issues
gender roles, transgendered youth

Challenge defense ideas:
1. Make sure you are familiar with your library collection and the book in question.
2. Be familiar with your library collection policy.
3. If possible, speak with the person challenging the material and make sure they feel comfortable. Ask the customer what they disliked or disapproved of in the resource. If they still insist on challenging the material give them instructions on how to file a formal complaint.
4. Research professional reviews that speak to the material's merit, and get input from teen readers on why they found the book important.

Reason For Selection

This is the first novel about transgender that I have read, and I thoroughly found the issue interesting and educational. This book is a great way for people to become acquainted with transgender issues and the hardships for teens dealing with their transition.

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