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The Thing About Georgie

Review

The Thing About Georgie

There are enough trials in those tween years to make even the strongest and most popular kid lament his or her fate --- school, friends, the first inklings of romantic love, discovering one's particular strengths and weaknesses. Clearly, no pain equals no gain because nobody escapes those years without learning some big lessons.

In THE THING ABOUT GEORGIE, a fantastic first novel by Lisa Graff, Georgie Bishop, a fourth-grade dwarf who has been surrounded for the most part by kind and helpful people, finds himself in the middle of a change in his life that he could not have prevented and from which there is no escape. With particularly unsentimental pluck and smart thinking, however, he manages to reorganize his world so that the new things take the place of old habits and ideas that he doesn't need anymore, and he can move forward with self-esteem and happiness.

There is a rich panoply of characters in this sharply-realized but easily recognizable suburban world: Georgie has a best friend, Andy ("Andrea" in Italian), who has never made Georgie feel like there's something wrong with him; a bully who has been harassing him since kindergarten named Jeanie the Meanie; and his classical musician parents, who have always loved him for what he is. However, when a new kid named Russ is invited by Andy to join them in their neighborhood dog walking club, Georgie gets bent out of shape with Andy's need to broaden their circle. After then finding out that his mother is pregnant, Georgie and Andy have a fight and Georgie ends up having to pair up with Jeanie the Meanie to do a project on George Washington (who just happens to be his namesake).

The ensuing circus of crazy times includes driving lost with an Italian-speaking grandmother, a girl with red hair named Allison who looks like the greatest girl in the world and turns out to be nothing but trouble, a stint as Abraham Lincoln in a school play while wearing tomato cans for height, and a heartfelt discussion in which parents find just the right words to tell their child how much they love him. THE THING ABOUT GEORGIE moves along swiftly and smartly, tempering Georgie's fears and anger with thoughtful and instinctual responses from the adults who control his life and the kids who share it.

This is a great book for youngsters of all ages --- but most especially for those who are fearing their entry into the world of teenagerdom and all the obstacles that must be jumped over in order to reap the benefits of newfound independence and social contacts. Graff employs a nice trick throughout, too, in which almost every chapter is preceded by a diary entry in which someone asks us to try to do something that Georgie physically can't do, such as touch our toes or wrap our arms around our knees. Through these exercises, we get a sense of how brave Georgie is in having to face life as a dwarf, how everyday life is full of impediments that he accepts and works around in inspiring ways. At the end of the book, the narrator of these exercises is related to us in a surprising and touching way.

But this isn't a mushy book about a sweet angelic boy with physical difficulties. Georgie is emotionally like any other kid that age going through such stirring situations, and his anger and self-pity really help us appreciate and applaud the character that blossoms out of this spiral of tween difficulty. I laughed, I cried and I relived some painful pubescent memories of my own. Children will take to this book for its straightforward and emotionally resonant tale of growing up.

Reviewed by Jana Siciliano on January 30, 2007

The Thing About Georgie
by Lisa Graff

  • Publication Date: January 30, 2007
  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins
  • ISBN-10: 0060875895
  • ISBN-13: 9780060875893