Gracefully Grayson by Ami Polonsky

gracefullygrayson   Hyperion, Nov. 4, 2014.

When Grayson was in third grade he learned how to draw a princess secretly so he wouldn’t get teased by kids who thought boys shouldn’t like to draw princesses. In his room, also in secret, Grayson learned to squint his eyes just right so that his shiny purple athletic pants looked like an elegant skirt. By sixth grade Grayson’s a pro at secrets, but suddenly keeping Grayson’s true self secret is a problem. So Grayson decides to put aside the secrets and to take one leap after another on a courageous path to reveal to the world his true self.

Gracefully Grayson is a sensitively told and affirming tale about an amazing kid. Grayson is utterly likeable and real. Grayson is very certain that, though born in a boy’s body, Grayson’s true identity is female. As I read I felt Grayson’s pain, mentally urged the other characters to accept Grayson, and worried for Grayson as the story unfolded. Though this story is about a transgender kid coming out, it’s not an issues book. It’s a complex story with characters that react both predictably and unpredictably to events–as people do in the real world. It’s the strong plot and the main character that made this a book I couldn’t put down until I finished it — and one I immediately wished I hadn’t finished because I wanted to keep reading.

I think this would be a great book for upper-elementary school and middle school students to read. There’s a lot of love in Grayson’s life and a good amount of acceptance, but the road’s certainly not easy. Grayson’s own certainty of Grayson’s gender identity makes the story fascinating rather than excruciating. I think this novel will help non-transgender students to build understanding and empathy for transgender individuals. It might provide a great means for talking about transgender issues with tweens. I think it would be encouraging for transgender kids who read it. We all learn and gain encouragement from seeing ourselves in a book, especially when the book shows us that we can be loved and accepted for the person we are. A fabulous debut and a great addition to school and classroom libraries and gift lists, Gracefully Grayson will be out November 4.

I read an advance reader copy of Gracefully Grayson courtesy of Net Galley and Disney Hyperion. This is one I’ll buy and add to my library!

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