A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
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.
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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?
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