Parents' Guide to

Melissa

By Kate Pavao, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 10+

Fourth grader identifies as a girl in tender tale.

Melissa Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this book.

Community Reviews

age 10+

Based on 20 parent reviews

age 13+

I work with 4th graders. This book is NOT for 4th graders

The poorly-written characters in this book act like pre-teen/teenagers. Teaching how to clear internet history. Talk of pornographic magazines. Discussions of feelings of sexuality. Confusing (and inaccurate) medical explanations. These kids are reading books about babysitting and building forts . Why on Earth would an author think these subjects are appropriate for that age group? Regardless of your beliefs on the main subject - I advise parents to read this book first .
age 9+

Beautiful

My daughter may end up being transgender. A lot of the signs are there. She’s 9 years old and in the same grade as the main character, George/Melissa. She brought this book home from school this week. I’m sure someone from the school staff gave it to her. Initially, I was shocked and a little frightened that she was reading this book so I decided to read it too. I’m not sure that she understood everything she read. All the parts that other reviewers said were inappropriate for a 9 year old probably went over her head but I’m sure she got the gist of it. She probably gets that some people are born the wrong gender and they can change into the one they were meant to be, especially if the people around them support them. I’m glad she knows that now. As for me, I was rooting for the kid in the story to be able to be who she was inside the whole time. I thought it was beautiful when she was free to be herself. If it’s right for a character in a book, it’s right for my kid. It’s seems more complicated than that but maybe it’s not. George helped me to understand that I’ve got to support my kid no matter what.

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (20 ):
Kids say (37 ):

Alex Gino's simply and tenderly written story will help kids -- and parents -- understand what it feels like to be transgender. Melissa hates the body she was born with, gets teased at school, and worries her mother won't accept her if she learns her big secret. Readers will quickly understand that the fourth grader called George is really a girl and cheer her growing ability to live as herself.

There's not a lot of new territory covered here, but there are some simple and lovely moments, such as when Melissa's older brother says, "Weird. But it makes sense," when he hears her secret, or when her supportive friend Kelly helps her pick an outfit so that she can spend a day as Melissa.

Book Details

Did we miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate