Speaking Out: A 21st Century Handbook for Women and Girls

If you want to participate in your community and be heard, you will need to speak out in some way. While this is important for all members of the community, to date, the approximately one-half of the population identified as female has been significantly often less heard than the half that is identified as male.

With less than a quarter of media presenters being female, and men outnumbering women in parliaments worldwide by three to one, women’s voices are not being heard on an equal basis. To dismiss this as women not being interested is simplistic and inaccurate. In other domains, too, women are either underrepresented, or not catered for. In audiences, in education, in sport broadcasts, in managerial positions, the list is almost endless. And from childhood, girls are presented with gendered roles which suggest that cuteness and submissiveness are more desirable in a girl than ‘masculine’ traits such as independence and strength.

Speaking Out: A 21st-Century Handbook for Women and Girls aims to help women and girls to be heard – on the stage, online, and in day to day life. From demonstrating how it is that women are both underrepresented and actively discouraged from changing this, to giving practical advice on how to speak in a variety of forums, how to research and write content and how to deal with criticism, this book is a valuable tool for women of all ages and should be essential reading in secondary schools.

Tara Moss is an author, feminist and advocate for women with mover 20 years experience in the public eye. Her words are both practical and passionate, with examples and accessible explanations.

A handbook for every woman.

Speaking Out: A 21st-Century Handbook for Women and Girls, by Tara Moss
Harper Collins, 2016
ISBN 9781460751336

Precious Things, by Kelly Doust

Thumb and forefinger feeling towards tiny dimpled edges, she grasped another shining glass bead, a glittering silvery grey button of mercury. Separating it from the hundreds of others nestled inside the small wooden work tray, Aimee withdrew the bead, brought it close to her face and peered at the pinprick of light.

In Normandy, in 1891, Aimee sews beads to make a collar for her wedding, a wedding arranged by her father in the hope of saving his estate from ruin. In London in 2015, auctioneer and lover of beautiful things, Maggie, finds the aged collar at the bottom of a box of pieces of lace and fabric she has won cheaply at auction. Wondering at its past, Maggie cleans it, and shows it off during a television appearance, and is soon contacted by a stranger sure that she has a connection to the piece. As Maggie tries to trace the history of the collar and its previous owners, she also struggles with her own past and the way it impacts her present. Is the collar leading her towards making the biggest mistake of her life – or is something more simple at play?

Precious Things is a novel about family and about love, spanning three centuries and touching on multiple owners of the mysterious collar. Maggie’s’ contemporary tale is interspersed with glimpses of the collar’s past, and the lives of the women who have worn it, though it is chiefly Maggie’s’ story. Maggie is trying to balance a demanding job in an auction house with a marriage which has always been steady, but is now under pressure as her husband Tim copes with an equally stressful job. The couple’s young daughter Pearl and Tim’s troubled teen daughter Stella add to the mix, as do Maggie’s difficult mother and her old friend Kate.

The collar’s past is gradually unravelled, but it seems that Kate’s marriage is in danger of going the same way.

Precious Things, by Kelly Doust
Harper Collins, 2016
ISBN 9781460750971

The Yearbook Committee, by Sarah Ayoub

https://i.harperapps.com/covers/9780732296858/y648.pngShe blows a kiss, then the screen goes blank. And, suddenly, I’m back to being alone with my thoughts.
As much as I’m happy for her, it’s really hard seeing her life unfold while mine stays still.
I only have to wait a year. As soon as this year is over, I’ll be able to get out. Out of my school, out of my home, out into the real world, and on to the rest of my life.

Gillian is the only one who actually wants to be on the yearbook committee. With her best friend gone,  her Dad’s political career seeming more important than his daughter, and the unwanted attention of bully it-girl Lauren, being on the committee could be the only good thing happening in her life. The other members aren’t so sure. Matty’s a loner with a terrible home-life, Ryan is the school captain but his imagined future as a soccer star has been wrecked by an accident, Tammi’s only there because Lauren wants her to spy, and Charlie is new to the school and wants to be back in Melbourne, where she belongs. They are five very different people, but it’s their job to catalogue one final year.

The Yearbook Committee is a multi-voice novel which follows these five unlikely partners as they traverse a difficult year both in and out of school. Their enforced time together results in new friendships as well as new challenges as members of the group face a range of problems including cyberbullying, parental expectations, a mother with crippling depression, shattered dreams and much more.

While the use of five first person viewpoint characters means it takes a little while to get to know who’s who, but each voice is distinct and as the story progresses the reader is taken inside each teen’s life, and, by novel’s end will really care what happens, and to whom.

A gripping read.

The Yearbook Committee, by Sarah Ayoub
Harper Collins, 2016
ISBN 9780732296858

Mercy Street, by Tess Evans

https://i.harperapps.com/covers/9781460705674/y648.pngAs he steps out under the dome of stars, he finds a prayer on his lips – not a prayer to a distant god, but a prayer wholly domestic, wholly earthbound.
Don’t let them take her away…I couldn’t bear it.

After a long and happy marriage, George’s life has changed since his wife Penny’s death three years ago. Now he lives alone, and his only friends are his old mate Redgum and his sister Shirl, who pops in regularly to check on him. He misses Pen, but he doesn’t want more friends or company. He’d rather be alone.

So when he meets single mum Angie and her daughter Rory he doesn’t want to get too close. But Angie unexpectedly saves his life, so George feels he owes her something. And Angie, who isn’t used to people being nice to her, makes the most of it. Gradually, George’s reluctant involvement blossoms into something rich and fulfilling but when he faces losing Rory, the girl he comes to love like a granddaughter, he finds himself on the wrong side of the law.

Mercy Street is a warm hearted story of an unlikely hero, dealing with themes of family, security and cross generational friendships. With a host of moving moments, there are also laughs and a wonderful depth to both the setting and the cast of the novel.

A beautiful book.

Mercy Street, by Tess Evans
Fourth Estate, an imprint of Harper Collins, 2016
ISBN 9781460751046

Monty & Me, by Louisa Bennet

https://i.harperapps.com/covers/9780008124045/y648.pngI place a wee-mail above Legless’s ancient message. No need to sign it because every dog has a unique aroma. It’s the same wee-mail I’ve left whenever I’ve had the chance to pee. It conveys my shame. I ask one question: who killed Professor Patrick Salt? I hang my head and tuck in my tail as I plod after Rose. She’s investigating his murder, but little does she know, so am I. I failed Paddy in life and I have vowed I will not fail him in his death.

Monty the dog has just arrived at his new home. His new owner, Rose, is very caring, and Duckdown Cottage seems a nice place to live. But Monty can’t be happy here until he finds out who killed his former owner, Professor Salt. Monty was there when it happened and, even though he was injured trying to protect his owner, he still feels responsible for not doing more. He’s going to track down the killer.

Rose, meanwhile, wants to find the killer, too. She is a trainee detective, involved with the police investigation into Salt’s murder. But she has accidentally mucked up another investigation and now she’s in trouble at work. Perhaps if she can solve the Salt case, she can redeem her reputation.

Monty and Me is a mystery story with a difference: the narrator is a dog. Monty can’t speak to Rose (or other humans) but he can understand them, and read, too, and he finds ways to get his message across to Rose. He is helped by a rat, a magpie, and a lady beetle, among other animal accomplices, as well as by Rose, who comes to realise that Monty is pretty special.

Although a story from the dog’s perspective may sound like a children’s book, and the cover will certainly appeal to young readers, Monty and Me is intended for adult readers, and will most appeal to those who can suspend disbelief and enjoy the novelty.

Monty and Me, by Louisa Bennet
Avon, Harper Collins, 2015
ISBN 9780008124045

Danny Best: Full On, by Jen Storer & Mitch Vane (ill.)

https://i.harperapps.com/covers/9780733333330/y648.pngI creep across the grass like a MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE Secret Agent. I am silent. I leave no trail.
I pick up a stone and hurl it at the chook shed. The stone hits the tin rook with a CLANG and the chooks SQUAWK.
That’ll trick Fab.

Danny Best and his best mate Fab are playing cops and robbers. Danny is the robber, and his job is to get away from Fab for long enough to steal the treasure. But hiding under the house is a bit tricky, and policeman Fab has got back-up in the form of their other friends.

“Cops and Robbers” is one of five short stories featuring Danny and his friends in Danny Best: Full on, the first book in a new series. Danny doesn’t just think he’s the best – he knows it. And most of his adventures feature races or competitions of some sort, including obstacle courses and child-built race circuits.

Danny is a little bit full of himself (aren’t most 8 and three quarter year olds?) but is able to laugh at himself when things go wrong, and his friends have his measure. The stories are fast paced and humorous and feature cartoon-style illustrations, maps and more, including humorous quizzes after each story.

Lots to like here for primary aged readers.

Danny Best: Full on, by Jen Storer, illustrated by Mitch Vane
ABC Books, 2015
ISBN 9780733333330

There is a Monster Under My Christmas Tree Who Farts, by Tim Miller & Matt Stanton

There is a monster under my Christmas tree who farts.
You don’t want his help putting up the star.

It doesn’t matter how hard you try to be good when you are plagued by a farting monster who seems intent on getting you put on Santa’s naughty list. the young unnamed protagonist of this funny picture book sees (and smells) the monster under the Christmas tree, in his room where he should be wrapping up presents, even in Santa’s grotto when he goes to have his photo taken. What if Santa thinks it’s him, and doesn’t leave him any presents?

There is a Monster Under My Christmas Tree Who Farts is a humorous tale which will appeal to pre an early schoolers who will enjoy the fun of (and probably relate to) the dilemma of who to blame for stinky smells, and the resolution on the final page, which shows the monster and Santa out-stinking each other under the Christmas tree.

Great for Christmas laughs.

 

There is a Monster Under My Christmas Tree Who Farts, by Tim Miller & Matt Stanton
ABC Books, 2014
ISBN 9780733332951

Available from good bookstores and online.

Count My Christmas Kisses, by Ruthie May & Tamsin Ainslie

One kiss for baby, under mistletoe.
Two kisses for baby, catching falling snow.

Playing under mistletoe, singing with the choir or jingling Christmas bells, Christmas kisses abound in this gentle rhyming offering. Counting from one to ten, and finishing with the children (and their animal friends) asleep on Christmas Eve, the text would make a perfect bedtime wind down in the lead up to Christmas.

The pastel toned illustrations are adorable, with the numbers hanging in large baubles, the kisses snowflake adorned love hearts and the characters – two older children, baby and a rabbit and a fox – happily preparing for Christmas.

This would make a perfect gift for a baby or toddler.

 

Count My Christmas Kisses, by Ruthie May & Tamsin Ainslie
ABC Books/Harper Collins, 2014
ISBN 9780733332203

Available from good bookstores and online.

I am Juliet, by Jackie French

Who am I? Only a daughter?
A Capulet, wed to my father’s choice?
No! I am the girl who chose her destiny,
whose love outlasts the sun.
I am Juliet.

The story is not you – Romeo and Juliet, star-crossed lovers who fall in love in spite of their families being sworn enemies, but are tragically destined not to be together in this life. But though we know the story, do we really know who these people are? In I am Juliet Jackie French tells the story as it hasn’t been told before, allowing the reader to get to know Juliet as a person, as a strong girl who questions and challenges her destiny.

In the course of just a few days, Juliet grows and changes, becoming stronger and more likeable. At the same time, readers are given a better understanding of the whole story – the times in which it is set and the societal structures which would have led to such a circumstance. The story is chiefly told from Juliet’s perspective, but is bookended by chapters from the perspective of Rob, a boy actor given the role of Juliet to play in Shakespeare’s company. This allows readers both to see how his attitude is shaped by getting to know the character, as well as some idea of the workings of theatre at the time. Back of book notes give further insights.

Readers need have no knowledge of the play to engage with the novel, but it would act as an excellent complement to studies of the play, giving the characters, especially Juliet, a more human perspective.

 

I am Juliet, by Jackie French
Angus & Robertson, 2014
ISBN 9780732297985

Available from good bookstores or online.

In Great Spirits: The WW1 Diary of Archie Barwick

28th October 1916.
Oh a soldier’s life is a beauty in such weather but as soon as we get back into dry billets we forget all the hardships. It’ powerful in what good spirits the boys keep. They laugh and joke over it all, as if it was the fun of the world.

Archibald Albert Barwick was 24 years old when war broke out in 1914 and he joined the AIF. Leaving his job as manager of a sheep property in NSW, he trained with the expeditionary force in the 1st Battalion and travelled first to Egypt, then Gallipoli and later the Western Front. Along the way he rose to the rank of Sergeant, was injured three times and was awarded the Belgian Croix de Guerre. Significantly, he also wrote prolifically, filling sixteen diaries over the course of the war, detailing his experiences and insights.

In Great Spirits: The WWI Diary of Archie Barwick offers Barwick’s diary to contemporary readers. Condensed from the initial 400 000 words to around 130 000 words in order to make it manageable, the writing is otherwise only lightly edited, so that the sense of Barwick’s personality shines through, managing to be humorous, honest and heart-wrenching by turns, so that the reader can journey with him in a very personal way.

Of interest to historians of all levels, this is also a valuable read for any Australian to get first hand insight into Australia’s involvement in World War 1 and its impact.

 

In Great Spirits: Archie Barwick's WWI Diary - from Gallipoli to the By Archie Barwick

In Great Spirits: The WWI Diary of Archie Barwick
Harper Collins, 2013
ISBN 9780732297183

Available from good bookstores or online.