Angela has decided to change her name. But, this is no ordinary change. Angela’s new name will be Grady, and she will live life as a boy. Grady has accepted this, but will everyone else in his life accept it? Grady must navigate the already difficult world of high school with teachers, parents, siblings, best friends, bullies, and crushes, now with this additional “one small change that changes everything.”
Much like the bravery of Grady in not only coming out, but asking for acceptance in a world which refuses to give it freely, Ellen Wittlinger has bravely created some of the first young adult novels about, and for, transgendered teens. She is clearly an advocate for such teenagers, and Parrotfish includes further contacts and information to support transgendered teens, making it quite a good choice for inclusion in libraries.
The novel is filled with likable characters, though the dialogue does not often reflect the normal way that teens speak. Grady’s character does not go through a dynamic change by the end of the novel, and Grady’s trials (while seemingly difficult,) do not appear overly serious in the light of recent LGBTQ suicides. However, this makes the novel a safer bet for some readers whose understanding of the subject matter is limited. Readers will definitely root for Grady and ponder the meaning of tradition, gender roles in our society, and that illustrious fish which is known in the scientific world for switching its gender.
Can Grady defeat traditional gender roles and find acceptance in his choice to live life as a boy? What would it be like to make this decision and ask everyone to accept your wishes if you were still in high school?
About the Author
Ellen Wittlinger was born in Belleville, Illinois on October 21, 1948. When she was a child, she wanted to be a painter, but in college she decided to focus on writing poetry. Then, she moved from poetry to writing plays, and finally to books for young adults, where she has made waves with her honest depictions of the lives of LGBTQ teens.
Wittlinger’s favorite young adult books include Celine and The Goats, by Brock Cole, and The Great Gilly Hopkins and Jacob Have I Loved, by Katherine Paterson. Wittlinger’s first novel, Lombardo’s Law, was published in 1993 and since then she has written 13 titles for young adults, including Hard Love, a Printz Honor Book.
Reading Level/Interest Age
Sadly, many books focusing on LGBTQ issues have been continuously challenged in today’s libraries. A children’s book, And Tango Makes Three, has been the number one most-challenged book in libraries across the nation for the past three years. The reasoning is that the book is about two male penguins who raise a chick, and beyond being a true story, it suggests that the male penguins are in love. This harsh reaction by library patrons is exactly what Parrotfish is all about: a genderized society which makes up rules based on gender, making it extremely difficult for LGBTQ individuals to find acceptance. So while Parrotfish does not include any graphic sexual references, unpleasant language, etc., it may find itself censored, and that is exactly why we need to keep it in libraries where it may be needed most.
Why Did You Include This Book?
My professor of young adult literature included this book as required reading, and I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. Wittlinger’s work should be included in any well-rounded collection, as it provides books for and about a minority group which may desperately need the support.
- Best Books:
- Best Children’s Books of the Year, 2008 ; Bank Street College of Education; United States
Choices, 2008 ; Cooperative Children’s Book Center; United States
Middle and Junior High Schoool Library Catalog, Ninth Edition Supplement 2008, 2008 ; H.W. Wilson Company; United States
Rainbow List, 2008 ; American Library Association; United States
Senior High Core Collection Supplement to the Seventeenth Edition 2008, 2008 ; The H. W. Wilson Co.; United States
- Awards, Honors, Prizes:
- Lambda Literary Awards, 2008 Finalist Childrens/Young Adult United States
- State and Provincial Reading Lists:
- Volunteer State Book Award, 2009-2010 ; Nominee; Grades 7-12; Tennessee
- Whelan, D.L. (2009). Gay penguins tops AlA’s most challenged reading list, again. Retrieved on December 3rd, 2010 from http://www.schoollibraryjournal.com/article/CA6653100.html.