Parrotfish

Book review by
Kate Pavao, Common Sense Media
Parrotfish Book Poster Image
Solid primer on what it means to be a transgender teen.

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 5 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Good primer for teens who are curious about what it means to be transgender. Spells out the everyday complications that Grady faces once he decides to live life as a boy. Not only does he have to explain his new identity to family members, but he also has to worry about more mundane things, such as which bathroom to use at school and where to shower after gym class.

Positive Messages

Speaks to tolerance and accepting change in other people.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Grady is certainly brave, and his family -- especially his mother -- works hard to understand him. Readers will understand why little moments are such a big deal, such as when a cashier calls him "sir" or when his mother finally uses his new name.

Violence

Bullies throw milk on Grady in the school cafeteria. A group of girls verbally harasses him and plans a cruel prank.

Sex

Grady has a crush on a girl, and, in one intimate moment, they share a french fry.

Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Parrotfish centers on a transgender character (Grady was born a girl but wants to live as a boy). When he starts to live openly as a boy, he's harassed at school by both boys and girls, faces resistance from school staff and an old friend, and even has some trouble at home.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byWatsit June 18, 2012

From the horses mouth

From the perspective of a Female to Male transgendered person myself, I can say that this is a very good book. It doesn't unfairly portray Gordy, the famil... Continue reading
Adult Written bymeganc0208 November 2, 2011

Love!

This book sends a superb message while being socially educational. It teaches about gender identity, complications, and coming to terms.
Teen, 13 years old Written byStoddert April 14, 2012

Great Book For Everyone

Parrotfish is a great book that is very sweet and very funny. It's a wonderful read for everyone, transgender and cisgender alike.
Teen, 16 years old Written bylunartaiyou April 9, 2008

amazing

dont over look the minute things. if your kid is trying to tell you something listen! :) the book was amazing.

What's the story?

When Grady decides to start living openly as a boy (instead of being a girl named Angela), he faces harassment at school and hesitation from his oldest friend and some family members. But he also finds a new support system with friends who accept him, including a beautiful girl named Kita. Grady's family always puts on a big production for Christmas, including performing A Christmas Carol from inside their home for the whole town to see. This year, Grady rewrites the play to teach a powerful lesson about accepting change.

Is it any good?

What Ellen Wittlinger does really well here is spell out the everyday complications that Grady faces once he decides to live life as a boy. Not only does he have to explain his new identity to family members, but he also has to worry about more mundane things, such as which bathroom to use at school and where to shower after gym class. Grady's certainly brave, and his family -- especially his mother -- works hard to understand him. Readers will understand why little moments are such a big deal, such as when a cashier calls him "sir" or when his mother finally uses his new name.

A secondary story line about Grady's Christmas-obsessed father is a bit over the top, but this obsession does set the stage for a dramatic last scene. In the end, this is a good primer for teens who are curious about what it means to be transgender.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about identity change. In what ways do teens typically play with their identities (changing their hairstyles, dressing differently, and so on)? 

  • In recent years there have been a lot more books featuring gay, bisexual, and transgender characters. Is the same true for other forms of media, such as TV, movies, or video games? What do you think of this trend? What impact does it have on our culture?

  • What would happen at your school if someone made a major identity change like Grady does? Would that person be accepted?

Book details

  • Author: Ellen Wittlinger
  • Genre: Coming of Age
  • Book type: Fiction
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publication date: July 10, 2007
  • Publisher's recommended age(s): 12
  • Number of pages: 304
  • Available on: Paperback, Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle

For kids who love coming-of-age stories

Our editors recommend

Top advice and articles

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

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality and learning potential.

Learn how we rate