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Gracefully Grayson Hardcover – November 4, 2014
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From School Library Journal
Gr 6 Up—In this sweet and thoughtful debut, an introverted sixth grader begins to come into her own as a transgender girl. Grayson was orphaned in preschool and lives with her aunt and uncle in Chicago. She's becoming more and more aware of a nagging feeling that she should be living as a girl, despite being male-assigned, and on a daring whim decides to audition for the part of Persephone in the school play. She has a supportive teacher and a new friend, but also has to contend with school bullies and disapproving adults. The writing is clear and effortless, with a straightforward plot and likable characters. Grayson is a charming narrator who balances uncertainty with clarity, bravery with anxiety. This title has less obvious and didactic intent than other novels featuring transgender protagonists. A welcome addition to a burgeoning genre.—Kyle Lukoff, Corlears School, New York City
Gr 6 Up In this sweet and thoughtful debut, an introverted sixth grader begins to come into her own as a transgender girl. Grayson was orphaned in preschool and lives with her aunt and uncle in Chicago. She's becoming more and more aware of a nagging feeling that she should be living as a girl, despite being male-assigned, and on a daring whim decides to audition for the part of Persephone in the school play. She has a supportive teacher and a new friend, but also has to contend with school bullies and disapproving adults. The writing is clear and effortless, with a straightforward plot and likable characters. Grayson is a charming narrator who balances uncertainty with clarity, bravery with anxiety. This title has less obvious and didactic intent than other novels featuring transgender protagonists. A welcome addition to a burgeoning genre. Kyle Lukoff, Corlears School, New York City SLJ"
Sixth-grader Grayson realizes a dream but attracts controversy by taking the role of the female lead in the school play. When Grayson was younger, it was easier to look in the mirror and see "the long shining golden gown and the girl inside of it." Now, in sixth grade, "[m]y imagination doesn't work like it used to." (The book's first-person narration neatly avoids the problem of choosing gendered pronouns for Grayson, who is perceived as male by classmates but whose identity as female sharpens over the course of the novel.) The story takes time to get started: Grayson gains and then loses her first new friend in years; then Grayson's grandmother dies; and then, about a quarter of the way in, the school-play plot that quickly becomes central begins. Grayson's doodles of princesses and daydreams of skirts sometimes feel a clumsily obvious way to indicate that gender is the issue here. In fact, many characters feel more like stand-ins for certain ideas (Grayson's aunt's resistance to Grayson playing Persephone, Grayson's younger cousin's childlike insistence that "[i]t's just a play") than fully imagined people. Still, Grayson's journey is portrayed with gentleness and respect, and readers will root for the show to go on. A kind and earnest look at a young transgender adolescent's experience. (Fiction. 10-14) Kirkus"
Grayson, a sixth grader at Porter Middle School, passes the time doodling and daydreaming about what it would be like to go through life as a girl, despite being seen by everyone else as male. Struggling with the total isolation that comes with harboring a secret, Grayson keeps people at a distance until Amelia moves to town. The two develop a friendship that awakens Grayson's need for companionship and acceptance. When that friendship falls apart, Grayson tries out for (and lands) the female lead in the school play as a means of testing out a female persona. Facing abuse and derision from classmates and resistance from members of her adoptive family (both birth parents were killed years before), Grayson fights for the right to present her truest self to the people around her-both on and off the stage. Luckily, an invested teacher and several open-minded cast mates offer understanding and support as Grayson begins to sort out the complexities of her own identity. Polonsky captures the loneliness of a child resigned to disappear rather than be rejected, and then the courageous risk that child eventually takes to be seen for who she is. The first-person narration successfully positions readers to experience Grayson's confusion, fear, pain, and triumphs as they happen, lending an immediate and intimate feel to the narrative. shara l. hardeson Horn Book"
Sixth-grader Grayson Sender quietly doodles princess and castles with glitter pens during class and dreams of wearing twirly skirts and long, shiny gowns instead of his limp, lifeless track pants. Those aren't problems, but the fact that he has to repress himself is a problem-a big one. Despite knowing that he is a girl deep down inside, Grayson has learned to look and act like the boy he is not; his family would be furious and his classmates would bully him if they found out. But now, cast as Persephone in the spring play, he finds acceptance among the cast members. Thoughtfully told through Grayson's eyes, the story conveys his angst, hurt, loss, and emerging confidence as he struggles with a whirlwind of emotions. His new friends allow him to find the courage to become who "she" really is, and we are privileged to watch the transformation take place. With great courage, Polonsky's debut novel reminds us with much sensitivity that we are all unique and deserve to become who we are meant to be. Jeanne Fredriksen Booklist"
Sixth-grader Grayson has ways of getting by-he doodles abstract triangles instead of the princesses he yearns to be, and he wears oversize T-shirts and loose pants instead of the skirts and dresses he longs for. Grayson's aunt and uncle worry about his isolation (his parents died when he was small), and they are thrilled when he makes his first friend in years and tries out for the school play. They're less thrilled to learn he auditioned for the lead role-the Greek goddess Persephone. Debut author Polonsky uses the play effectively, showing the community that builds among the actors, Grayson's connection to Persephone and her underground captivity, and the tensions swirling around the casting choice and the play's director, a popular teacher who may or may not be gay. Polonsky skillfully conveys Grayson's acute loneliness and his growing willingness to open up about who he is, though the book has a dutiful feel in its efforts to raise awareness about gender nonconforming and transgender preteens. Ages 10 14. PW"
4Q 4P M J Sixth-grader Grayson Sender has lived with his aunt and uncle ever since his parents died in a car accident, and has harbored a deep, dark secret from them and the rest of the world. He secretly imagines that his track pants are flowing skirts, that his long hair is pulled back with ribbons and barrettes, and that the shapes he doodles during school are pictures of princesses. Grayson's secret is something that his parents knew, but they are gone. His new family is less accepting of the fact that, even though born a boy, deep down inside, he is a girl. When he summons the courage to try out for a female role in the school play, Grayson finds out just how unaccepting people can be. Polonsky's first novel is a triumph. It is well written, insightful, and true to the world of middle school, beginning with Grayson doodling in class and trying to remain as anonymous as possible in school. When he is noticed, it is to be teased and bullied, even by his cousin Jack, who used to be his friend. Grayson is lonely and alone as he slowly comes to accept who and what he is, and takes baby steps toward expressing that true self to the rest of the world. It seems utterly realistic heartbreaking and uplifting at once. This is an excellent choice for a middle school classroom discussion.-Laura Lehner. VOYA"
Grayson's sure that if he could just find a way, he could strip off his ill-fitting male self and become the girl he was always meant to be. An uncharacteristically brave moment during an audition and a forward-thinking teacher willing to take a risk means that Grayson lands the role of Persephone in a school play. The ensuing controversy doesn't keep Grayson from the role, but it does shake up the town in permanent ways. Grayson is an endearing narrator of his own life as he moves from quiet doodler waiting for some magical moment to a determined kid who realizes he can just make his own. Unfortunately, there isn't much depth to the characters who surround him, and their flat rejection or immediate acceptance of Grayson end up being devoid of realistic complexity. In addition, a resources or further reading list would have been useful, particularly as the young intended audience isn't likely to have read much about transgender preteens before. Nevertheless, this is a well-intentioned, warm look at a kid who finds a voice that feels true for the first time, and for that reason, many readers may find this to be a memorable read. AS BCCB"