Parrotfish

Common Sense Media says

Solid primer on what it means to be a transgender teen.

Age(i)

2
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9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17

Quality(i)

 

What parents need to know

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

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
Not applicable
Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

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.

Parents say

Kids say

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?

QUALITY
 

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.

Families can talk 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
Number of pages:304
Publisher's recommended age(s):12
Read aloud:14
Read alone:14
Available on:Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle, Nook, Paperback

This review of Parrotfish was written by

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  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Quality

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  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
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  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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What parents and kids say

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Teen, 16 years old Written bylunartaiyou April 9, 2008
AGENot rated for age
QUALITY
 

amazing

dont over look the minute things. if your kid is trying to tell you something listen! :) the book was amazing.
Teen, 13 years old Written byStoddert April 14, 2012
AGE
11
QUALITY
 

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.
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Adult Written byWatsit June 18, 2012
AGE
12
QUALITY
 

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 family or the situation toward bias in any direction. I think its a wonderful book that teaches understanding about a very personal and complex issue. And Ellen Wittlinger pulled it off without demonizing the characters who don't understand. This is a much truer to life portrayal of what it's like than other books about the same subject- even with the surreal christmas pageant looming in the background throughout. The best part though is how surprisingly accurately she was able to describe the feelings (not perfectly, but still..) etc, from the perspective of a transman- herself being a woman perfectly content with her womanhood. I almost felt as though she must have a little something she isn't telling the rest of us, lol. Overall a very good book, I would recommend it to anyone interested in the subject.

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