Thursday, January 24, 2013

Michael's Book Review

I am thrilled to share my blog with a guest writer this week. His name is Michael and he is a 5th Grader in our school who has actively participated in a Book Club with me, his principal, for the last five years. We recently completed a group reading of the book The Thing About Georgie by Lisa Graff, which provided us with many opportunities for rich dialogue and conversations. This book pushed us to think about things in a different way and allowed us the opportunity to delve into the idea of THEME as it relates to a text. After finishing the book, Michael generated the following review and reflection on one of the THEMES in the book. Please take a few minutes to read Michael's reflections - they are truly impressive! Please leave a comment because I am hoping that we can encourage Michael to start his own blog after this experience... its not easy to publicly share your thoughts! 

The Thing About Georgie by Lisa Graff
Review and Reflection by Michael
I applaud Graff for writing such a humorous and relatable story and including such a heartfelt message. Bravo!
This book is about Georgie (a dwarf) who when we first meet him is having some problems with life. Actually one problem: Jeanie the meanie.  She won’t stop nagging Georgie and reminding him of his condition. Then to make matters worse, his parents who are normal-sized are having a normal-sized baby. That is like knowing that your younger sibling is going to pass you in height except your younger sibling is nine years younger than you are (because Georgie is in fourth grade.) That is embarrassing, humiliating and it really emphasized Georgie’s condition. Then the worst happens, note that at this point in the story Georgie is on Christmas break,  just as Georgie’s family is going to midnight mass on Christmas Eve his mother gets zapped because she put her finger in an electric socket. She is fine, but because of the baby and Georgie’s condition the family decided it was best to go to the hospital. Georgie is left to spend Christmas Eve at his best friend Andy’s house. Even though he was kept busy by Andy’s family he still wanted to spend Christmas Eve as he usually does, at his house with his parents. Poor Georgie, his parents call, they have to stay overnight at the hospital. Now, Andy has made a new friend in school named Russ Wilkins but Georgie is jealous of this new friend. Unfortunately Georgie poorly addresses this issue at Andy’s house, that night and it results in an argument that is devastating to their relationship.
When they come back from Christmas Break everyone is assigned to work on a president assignment with a partner of their choice. Since Georgie and Andy had that big fight they are not partners. Georgie couldn’t find a partner so the teacher assigned him the only other person that couldn’t find a partner, Jeanie the meanie. During the majority of the report instead of doing her report Jeanie chose to doodle and asked Georgie questions. One of which being about Georgie’s ability to act on stage. She asked whether Georgie had stage fright. Since Georgie was intent on doing his work he did not respond immediately to Jeanie’s question. She interpreted that as hesitation and assumed Georgie had stage fright.  Even though he didn’t and was just afraid that people would laugh at his condition and since he never thought of himself as a public speaker.
When his teacher was passing around sign-up slips for the presidential play, Georgie did not write himself down even though his hero is George Washington. Georgie’s full name is Georgie Washington Bishop so he feels a special connection to George Washington. He doesn’t sign up but when his teacher is writing the cast on the board next to Abraham Lincoln, by the way that is who Georgie did his report on: Abraham Lincoln, but back to the story his teacher writes Georgie Bishop. Why did the teacher write his name on the board? Who signed him up? Turns out Jeanie signed him up. She wanted him to get over his “Stage fright.”  To her credit she helped Georgie memorize his lines and she helped him with his costume. If she hadn’t done that Georgie would sound terrible on stage and then people would be laughing at him. She wasn’t a meanie after all.
I believe that no one is mean for the sake of being mean. They are mean for a reason. Whether it’s a cultural thing or it’s because they are sad. (In Jeanie’s case she was mean because of family issues. The absence of a mother and her brothers teasing her all contribute to her hard outer shell.)
Back to the story, Georgie was nervous but he got out on stage and he was funny and entertaining and he delivered his lines well. The audience did laugh but they were not laughing at Georgie they were laughing for Georgie. He was star of the show and he felt tall not just because he was standing on empty cans because for the first time in the book he felt proud of himself.
Now, self-pride is a funny thing, there has to be a certain balance because if you’re too proud of yourself you come off as pompous and self-infatuated and those are not good characteristics to be described as. But if you have to little you doubt yourself and you don’t trust yourself and that’s not good either. You see, balance.
On with the story, on the ride home from the school that night a question was on Georgie’s mind. A question he had been pondering for quite a long time. He asked his parents whether they liked him less because of his condition and whether they were disappointed. His parents stopped the car and said very seriously that they were disappointed that they were going to have a child with dwarfism but that they looked past his dwarfism and couldn’t love him more for who he really is.
The reoccurring theme of this story is dwarfism and all the problems that surround it. Dwarfism or growth hormone deficiency is when the pituitary gland isn’t making enough growth hormone. It refers to anybody who is a lot lower than average height. As you heard it is no cup of tea being a dwarf. Although Georgie was faced with tough challenges he got through them and did not let them define who he is. No matter what problems you have emotional, physical the most important thing to remember is you will get through it. And as long as you don’t let it define who you are you will be fine. Although it does drain your pride and self- confidence you will get through it. I hear stories on the news about suicide and I wonder why they would like to leave this beautiful wonderful world. Now I know, they have lost all hope and happiness it was drained from them. They let their problems define who they are and maybe if they’re reading what you’re reading right now they would have lived. Trust me, if you don’t let your problems define who you are you will get through even the darkest of nights. There isn’t just one word that describes you. We are all different and unique and we should be judged for what’s on the inside of us. I’m not talking about nerves and organs and all that I’m talking about what makes us special. By not even looking at any of my friends I will be able to guess who they are based on just a few describing words about them. That is why the morale of this book: there’s more to explore about everyone than meets the eye is such a beautiful and important morale.  All these things that I am saying are true. And all these words were evoked by The Thing About Georgie. So next time you see this book at the library check it out. You’ll be glad you did.


  1. Wow Michael, I have to commend you on such a detailed and interesting book review. Your lead sentence really caught my eye and made me want to know more about the book. I hope you don't mind but I will be showing your review to my students, who knows, some of them may get excited about reading the book as well.
    Pernille Ripp
    Madison, WI

  2. "We are all different and unique and we should be judged for what’s on the inside of us."
    Great point. What a wonderful observation and thought to walk away with from the story.

  3. Michael, I enjoyed the review but it is your insights that really make this post special. How easy is it to write off the class jerk without trying to find out why they are behaving this way? How easy is it to label people and then treat them like the label is true?

    Although this book's main theme may be about dealing with dwarfism, it is obviously about how people feel and how they treat each other. Excellent job!

    Mr. C

  4. AWESOME! You give an incredible amount of insight and thoughtfulness to the story you shared. I am making a note to go check our library for that book so that I can share it with my students. I love your brilliant use of vocabulary, it shows that you have been an avid reader for quite some time now. You use colorful words with deep meaning and I love the way you develop your character in your report. I am instantly wanting to connect with Georgie and learn more about him. Thanks for writing such a great report and being brave enough to share it on a blog. Many people will be impressed with your writing and I am hoping eyes all over the world see it and decide to pick up this book.

    Mr. Whitford
    Lead Learner of Iowa-Grant Elementary/Middle School
    Livingston, WI

  5. Michael,
    I am an elementary principal outside of Albany, NY and after only a few of the words you wrote I could see why Mr. Sinanis was excited to share your book review on his blog. Wow! You have great insight and are a very eloquent writer.
    My favorite part is when you said, "No matter what problems you have emotional, physical the most important thing to remember is you will get through it. And as long as you don’t let it define who you are you will be fine. Although it does drain your pride and self- confidence you will get through it."
    I hope you have many readers of this review and look forward to the next piece you write.

  6. Michael,

    I'm a 5th grade teacher in New Jersey and I was impressed at what a thoughtful review you gave to this book. It sounds like this was a book that will stick with you for a long time. I like how you interjected your thoughts about complex subjects like pride throughout your post. I'm curious as to how you chose this book...what made you reach for this book our of the hundreds and thousands of others? What ever it was I hope you keep choosing books in a similar fashion. I will make sure to share your post with my students as well, I think you will convince a few it is a book worth reading.

    John Fritzky

  7. Michael, as a fourth grade teacher, I always strive to teach my students to dig deeper when reading and responding to a book. You were able to do just that! Very impressive! Keep living the readerly and writerly life!
    Tali Kupferman
    4th grade teacher

  8. Hey Michael...

    It was great meeting you yesterday. I had a blast at Cantiague.

    To be honest, I've only heard about the book THE THING ABOUT GEORGIE. I've never read it. But now after reading your outstanding review, I must read it. In fact, I just put it on my ipad. I'm going to be reading it on the plane this week!

    Keep on reading!