It’s International Day of the Girl Child today, a day aimed at raising awareness of the potential of the 1.1 billion girls in the world, and the discrimination, violence and lack of equal opportunities that may see that potential wasted.
When commissioning new books for our list, we are committed to inclusive representation with strong, empowered female characters in situations that challenge gender stereotypes, and have also published books explicitly addressing the issues facing women and girls in the modern world.
There is still much unconscious bias in our industry – even animal characters in picture books tend to be male and girls dressed for active play are something of a rarity.
So there is still work to be done, but to mark the day here is a list of some of our favourite girls in Barrington Stoke books.
Eoin Colfer is a genius when it comes to portraying strong willed girls and women. Mary in Mary’s Hair, Lucja in The Fish in the Bathtub and Anna Liza in Anna Liza and the Happy Practice are all brilliant female characters making a serious mark on the world.
Andy Stanton’s two Barrington Stoke titles centre around slightly silly boys and the much smarter girls they know. A particular favourite here is Dr Edward MacIntosh from Sterling and the Canary (she is a girl, honest – read the book to find out about the name).
We have a girl referee, a girl head outlaw, a girl fleeing persecution, girls flying fighter jets, a LOT of girls playing sport, fighting crime and injustice, outsmarting the boys and generally rocking it. We even have a boy in a dress, to subvert those ideas that we are defined by our clothing.
Mary Hooper is another author writing brilliant girls, this time for older readers. A Dark Trade is a particularly strong narrative of two young women fighting against serious inequality in Victorian London, and who find solace in one another. Caroline Lawrence reaches even further back in Queen of the Silver Arrow, a retelling of the story of Camilla of Greek myth.
Society tries to silence the voice of the abused; Salvi’s book is all about being present and being heard
Over on our sister imprint the Bucket List we have two unflinching portrayals of issues facing women and girls across the world. Bessora and Barroux’s Alpha features ‘adventurer’ Abebi, who funds her passage from Lagos to – she hopes – Europe partly with sex work. Abebi’s arc is a tragic one, and the fate of her baby girl among the most heartbreaking things we’ve ever published. Manuela Salvi’s Girl Detached is a powerful narrative about grooming. Shy, reserved Aleksandra meets a new group of friends and is introduced to Ruben – a handsome, older boy who showers her with gifts as a means of controlling her. The F Word blog reviewed the book as follows:
“Girl Detached is a compelling read: defiant, powerful and blood-boiling. Like Louise O’Neill’s Asking For It and Courtney Summers’ All The Rage, it is easy to see why some might think it unsuitable for young adults. However this is arguably exactly why young women should be able to read stories such as these: to rip away sheltered, uninformed and unsafe naivety and face the world with knowledge. Society tries to silence the voice of the abused; Salvi’s book is all about being present and being heard. This brave, important text not only confronts you, it demands you listen.”