Parrotfish

( 9 )

Overview

Angela Katz-McNair has never felt quite right as a girl, but it's a shock to everyone when she cuts her hair short, buys some men's clothes, and announces she'd like to be called by a new name, Grady. Although Grady is happy about his decision to finally be true to himself, everybody else is having trouble processing the news. Grady's parents act hurt; his sister is mortified; and his best friend, Eve, won't acknowledge his existence. On top of that, there are more practical concerns—for instance, which locker ...

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Parrotfish

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Overview

Angela Katz-McNair has never felt quite right as a girl, but it's a shock to everyone when she cuts her hair short, buys some men's clothes, and announces she'd like to be called by a new name, Grady. Although Grady is happy about his decision to finally be true to himself, everybody else is having trouble processing the news. Grady's parents act hurt; his sister is mortified; and his best friend, Eve, won't acknowledge his existence. On top of that, there are more practical concerns—for instance, which locker room is he supposed to use for gym class? Grady didn't expect his family and friends to be happy about his decision, but he also didn't expect kids at school to be downright nasty about it. But as the victim of some cruel jokes, Grady also finds unexpected allies, including the school geek Sebastian, and Kita Charles, who's a gorgeous senior. In a voice tinged with humor and sadness, Ellen Wittlinger explores Grady's struggles—struggles any teen will be able to relate to.

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Editorial Reviews

KLIATT - Claire Rosser
In the genre of "problem fiction," this novel would be tagged as about a transgender adolescent. Wittlinger is a good storyteller and this is far from being solely an issue novel. Angela is the narrator and her story begins with the birth of a new cousin: is it a boy or a girl? Seemingly easily answered, but not for people like Angela, who has been raised as a girl but feels that she is at heart a boy. Angela insists that her family start calling her Grady. She is attracted to girls. At first, she thought she was a lesbian, but has realized that it's more complicated than that—she feels she is a boy attracted to girls, a heterosexual with the wrong body parts for who she really is. The novel progresses as Grady finds friends in school, including a science enthusiast, Sebastian, who is studying parrotfish, a species that changes gender from female to male: hence the title of this book. Wittlinger's writing skill will help YA readers understand transgender issues, and those readers will be entertained and moved as they read.
VOYA - Jamie S. Hansen
People redefine themselves all the time. They change their names, their jobs, their majors, their hair color, their political parties, their religions, and even their husbands or wives. Why, then, is it such a big deal to change one's gender? Although outwardly female, Angela has always felt like a boy inside. After years of girly pretense, in his/her junior year of high school, he/she crops hair, dons male attire, and announces to family, friends, and teachers that he/she wishes to be called Grady. Parents and siblings react with disbelief and distress. Grady's former best friend, a hanger-on in the clique of popular girls, is disgusted. Most of his/her teachers dismiss transgendering as clear evidence that teenagers do not really know what they want. Bullied, teased, and mocked at school, Grady discovers that he/she has two unexpected allies. Kira, the most gorgeous and popular senior at Buxton High, offers sympathy and understanding. Weird and geeky Sebastian, writing a report on gender changing in parrotfish, proves a surprisingly strong and supportive friend. With a little help from his/her two new friends, some education about the natural world, and his/her own strong convictions, Grady is confirmed in the rightness of his/her actions. Peopled with wonderfully wacky characters and scenes, this narrative snaps and crackles with wit, even while it touches the spirit of the sensitive reader. Wittlinger scores another success with this highly recommended novel.
Children's Literature - Keri Collins
Angela Katz-McNair has always felt more like a boy than a girl. She tried being a tomboy and then a lesbian on her way to figuring out her gender identity. Upon realizing she is transgendered, which she describes as having the soul of a typical boy in the body of a girl, Angela cuts her hair short, wraps her breasts in an Ace® bandage to flatten them, wears boys clothes, and changes her name to Grady, making this transformation over the Thanksgiving holiday. Against the backdrop of the family's annual epic Christmas decorating extravaganza, Grady faces the stereotypical reactions of his peers, teachers, friends, and relatives as they attempt to deal with his new identity. Friends abandon him, his sister believes her life is ruined, he is harassed and subjected to humiliation, and the school principal offers no support. New friendships are formed, support is found in unexpected places, and Grady falls in love. While Ellen Wittlinger's skillful writing tackles a difficult and controversial topic with sensitivity balanced with humor, the protagonist's inner dialogue and casual conversations often sound like an adult trying to educate the reader on the appropriate terminology to use and attitudes to have toward people who are transgendered. In the end, this story reads like many other tales of self-discovery but with an uneven pace, an overly large cast of characters, and little true growth in the protagonist as he faces minimal conflict with tremendous support. References, resources, and web sites are supplied at the end of the book.
School Library Journal

Gr 9 Up
As in Hard Love (S & S, 1999), Wittlinger tackles GLBT issues, introducing readers to Grady McNair, formerly known as Angela. This fast read follows Grady through the days between Thanksgiving and Christmas as he comes out as transgendered, faces issues of acceptance and rejection at school and at home, and falls in love with the hottest girl in school. Funny and thought-provoking in turns, the book does suffer from a few structural problems. The narrator's voice is very feminine for somebody who has internally always felt like a boy, and with little effort on his part, Grady ends the book with family approval, new and old friends, a previously forbidden pet, and the end of an embarrassing family holiday tradition. Flaws aside, the book is an excellent resource for building awareness about, and serving the increasing number of, transgendered teens. Helpful resources include Web sites and further-reading material. The lack of similar titles available, except for Julie Ann Peters's Luna (Little, Brown, 2004), and Wittlinger's captivating storytelling ability combine to make this a book that most libraries should stock. Grady eventually decides that he will always straddle the 50 yard line of gender, and the book should help teens be comfortable with their own place on that football field.
—Cara von Wrangel KinseyCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Kirkus Reviews
A transgender boy comes out to family, friends, schoolmates and teachers in this groundbreaking book. "[I]nside the body of this strange, never-quite-right girl was hiding the soul of a typical, average, ordinary boy," says Grady; "In my dreams at night, I was a boy, but every morning I woke to the big mistake again." At school, some faculty resist, but the gym teacher offers her own office and shower as a private changing area. A bully arranges a devastating prank (stealing Grady's clothes and leaving him an ultra-feminine outfit), but someone spills the beans and humiliation is avoided. Wittlinger balances well the negative and positive reactions to Grady's change, including confusion and prejudice but also acceptance; a sexy girl is attracted to Grady (but doesn't finally date him). At home, the family's long-term, gaudy Christmas traditions (seven Santas on the lawn and an indoor Christmas Carol reenactment visible to neighbors) come to an end as a symbol of change. Artistically bland, but direct and respectful. Given the rarity of transgender characters, a vital and necessary purchase for any YA collection. (references, resources, websites) (Fiction. YA)
From the Publisher
“A thought-provoking discussion of gender roles, gender identity, and the influence of nature, nurture, and social construction on both.”—The Horn Book Magazine

“A compelling and richly detailed story.”—The BCCB

“Peopled with wonderfully wacky characters and scenes, this narrative snaps and crackles with wit, even while it touches the spirit of the sensitive reader. Wittlinger scores another success with this highly recommended novel.”—VOYA

“Wittlinger’s writing skill will help YA readers understand transgender issues, and those readers will be entertained and moved as they read.”—KLIATT

“The author demonstrates well the complexity faced by transgendered people and makes the teen’s frustration with having to “fit into a category” fully apparent.”—Publishers Weekly

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781416916222
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
  • Publication date: 7/10/2007
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 711,453
  • Age range: 12 - 17 Years
  • Lexile: 790L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Ellen Wittlinger is the critically acclaimed author of the teen novels Love & Lies: Marisol's Story, Parrotfish, Blind Faith, Sandpiper, Heart on My Sleeve, Zigzag, and Hard Love (an American Library Association Michael L. Printz Honor Book and a Lambda Literary Award winner), and the middle-grade novel Gracie's Girl. She has a bachelor's degree from Millikin University in Decatur, Illinois, and an M.F.A. from the University of Iowa. A former children's librarian, she lives with her husband in Haydenville, Massachusetts.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 9 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 9 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 4, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    ParrotFish

    ParrotFish by Ellen Wittlinger was a beautifully written novel about a transgendered girl finding and learning to love himself along the way. I fell in love with the characters but mostly with the exciting bookworm Sebastian who becomes friends with Grady, disregarding any differences in her new appearance. After reading Parrotfish, you will understand the perceptive of a transgendered person, who feels forced to live up to society's expectations while feeling uncomfortable in their own skin. This is a great book to show how individuals can overcome their troubles and find acceptance within themselves and in others. This novel is highly recommended. =)

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 13, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Reviewed by Jennifer Wardrip, aka "The Genius" for TeensReadToo.com

    Angela Katz-McNair isn't your typical teenage girl. She is, in fact, a boy. Sure, she may have the body parts that science uses to dictate her gender, but, in this case at least, science has gotten it all wrong. <BR/><BR/>Shortly before Christmas, Angela announces to her family that she's decided to act on the issue of being a boy trapped in the body of a girl. Her name is now Grady. She's cut her hair short and she's wearing boy's clothes. Grady is determined to make the change permanent, and as complete as he possibly can. <BR/><BR/>He starts by announcing his decisions to his family, which is met with assorted reactions. His dad seems to take the news in stride; after all, Grady was always a tomboy who did "guy stuff" with him anyway. His sister, Laura, is sure that Grady is out to ruin her life, and her high school experience. His younger brother, Charlie, doesn't care all that much, as long as the news doesn't affect his video game playing. And his mother, well, his mother isn't at all sure what to think, how to act, or what to do. <BR/><BR/>Since Grady is determined, he doesn't just turn into a transgendered person at home. He makes his intentions known at school, too, and you can probably guess what some of the consequences are. Friends are no longer friends; indifferent acquaintances become outright enemies. But there are also bright moments in Grady's new life: he makes a new best friend, Sebastian, who introduces him to the scientific wonder of the parrotfish, an ocean fish who can, and does, change gender. He also finds allies in Russ and Kita, a powerhouse high school super-couple who raise new questions in Grady's mind when he starts falling for Kita himself. <BR/><BR/>PARROTFISH is a wonderful, emotional novel dealing with the issues of identity and transgenderism. Previously, the only other book I've read on the matter is Julie Anne Peter's LUNA, in which a girl was born in the body of a boy. I have to say that both novels are wonderful, and for teens questioning their own identity, are more than just a good read. Ms. Wittlinger has also included resources in the back of PARROTFISH for help and support. Overall, this is a great work of fiction, but it's also a great story dealing with one teen's struggle to find himself outside of society's norm.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 28, 2008

    I absolutely loved this book!!

    My friend lent this book to me last year, and I read it in a night!! I adored it!! Grady is such a wonderful character! I would suggest this book to any open-minded teenager.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 24, 2008

    Parrotfish

    This novel is amazing! I wish there were more books out there like this one. This novel was so well written and has become a guidence tool for me as I'm going through my transion to full male. I love this book it's actually my favorite!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 5, 2007

    Best in Teen and more!

    This is the first fictional book about a female to male transition I've seen written well. It is also the first book about a trans individual that focuses not on the differences, but the similarities to everybody else. I would recomment it to anyone - even if they have had no contact with the GLBT community before.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted May 8, 2011

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