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Girl Power in Ancient Times: Review of Just a Girl by Jackie French

August 28, 2018

Just a Girl by Jackie French is the story of Maryiam of Nazareth, the woman we know as Mary, the mother of Jesus. However Just a Girl is not a religious story, rather an historical account of the time.

From the age of 12, Australian author, Jackie French wondered about the Christmas story – where did it come from and who told it? With this in mind and based on primary sources, she has meticulously created small village life in Judea in 72AD as the starting point in this work of historical fiction.

As the story opens, a young girl called Judith is watching Roman chariots pass by in a cloud of dust, and everyone in her village is relived that they haven’t stopped. Yet Sawtha Rabba, one of the elders of the village and her great grandmother believes that they shouldn’t let their guard down.

And so, begins the story of Rabba, Judith, and her sister Baratha’s escape from the Roman army destroying their village and their subsequent fight for survival. Despite finding refuge in a cave where preserved food is in abundance, Judith and her sister must hone their skills and take on many jobs that were highly unusual for women back then.

While Judith survives some eye-opening experiences, hunting, defending them against wild animals and soldiers, Rabba tells the girls stories of her life in an attempt to prepare the girls for the time when they will be on their own in the world.

Later in the journey they are joined by Roman slave Caius who is a Christian. When he discovers that Rabba knew Maryiam (or Mary) the mother of Joshua (Jesus) he is determined to find out as much as he can about this woman about whom little is known. Of all Rabba’s stories, this is the one she is most hesitant to share.

This wonderful new offering from beloved Jackie French is about women telling their own story – an older woman passing on information to the next generation of women, girls finding independence and even in small ways, challenging the status quo.

Just a Girl also includes extensive author notes on historical sources, languages, betrothal traditions, food – including a recipe for flat bread that the kids can make. Perfect for 10 + readers, it will serve as a great starting point for discussions around women, slavery, independence, customs of the past and the importance of literacy.

Purchase a copy of Just a Girl | Read about Jackie’s favourite childhood books

Jackie French AM is an award-winning writer, wombat negotiator, the 2014–2015 Australian Children’s Laureate and the 2015 Senior Australian of the Year. In 2016 Jackie became a Member of the Order of Australia for her contribution to children’s literature and her advocacy for youth literacy. She is regarded as one of Australia’s most popular children’s authors and writes across all genres — from picture books, history, fantasy, ecology and sci-fi to her much loved historical fiction for a variety of age groups. ‘Share a Story’ was the primary philosophy behind Jackie’s two-year term as Laureate.


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