Author of transgender book donates copies to Wichita school libraries

The author of a children’s book about a transgender youngster plans to donate more than 50 copies of the book to Wichita public schools.

Alex Gino, whose novel, “George,” is a nominee for this year’s William Allen White Children’s Book Award, said Thursday that an impromptu Twitter campaign garnered enough money within a half-hour to buy a copy of the book for every Wichita elementary and K-8 school library.

Gino plans to partner with the Wichita chapter of GLSEN, a group that advocates on behalf of LGBTQ students, to distribute the books to school librarians.

The book, which tells the story of a fourth-grade child struggling with gender identity, is at the center of a debate in Wichita and some other Kansas school districts.

The supervisor of library media for the Wichita district said “George” contains language and references that are not appropriate for young children. Wichita school librarians are allowed to carry the book if they choose, but the district did not include it in a set of William Allen White master list titles provided to every elementary school.

On Thursday afternoon, Gino posted a tweet saying it would cost $450 to buy a hardcover copy of “George” for every Wichita school. The author pledged half the amount and asked for donations for the rest.

In less than an hour, Gino said, the funds were collected. The author personally thanked the Twitter accounts of several fellow writers, including Ali Benjamin, Alex London and Minh Le.

“(Library supervisor) Gail Becker said Wichita school librarians are allowed to carry the book even though she won’t provide it,” Gino said. “So I figured I could help.”

Liz Hamor, co-founder of the Wichita chapter of GLSEN, said her group had planned to raise money to buy copies of the book and was grateful to accept the author’s donation.

“Clearly this has started some discussion, so I hope we can continue to move forward with that,” Hamor said Thursday. “We also need to let people know there are resources here for trans youth and their families, so having that discussion is hugely important.”

Hamor said she contacted school officials in Wichita, the state’s largest school district, to let them know about the book donation. It was unclear Thursday how the books might be distributed.

“George,” published in 2015 by Scholastic, is a middle-grade novel about a transgender girl who doesn’t know how to tell her family and friends. George decides to try out for the part of Charlotte in her school’s production of “Charlotte’s Web” in hopes of helping others see her the way she sees herself.

The book, geared toward children 8 to 12, was selected for the William Allen White Children’s Book Award master list for third- through fifth-graders. It won a 2016 Children’s Choice Book Award, a Stonewall Book Award for LGBT books and was a finalist for the E.B White Read-Aloud Award for middle readers.

Suzanne Perez Tobias: 316-268-6567, @suzannetobias

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