Books out now
Just a Girl
Age range: 11+
The 'author is terrified and needs to explain this book to everyone’ book is about to be published.
It is set in Judea, in 72AD, as the Roman army move like bloodthirsty locusts swarm through the land. Two girls, an old woman, a Roman slave left for dead and a goat shelter in a store cave.
All of which is fiction. But interwoven are the memories of the old woman of her childhood in Nazareth and marriage in Jerusalem, and a woman called ‘Maryam’. And these parts of the book are based on decades of study and research of possibly the most famous but least known woman in history, be she known as Mariam, Maryam, Maria or Mary.
Which is what terrifies me. This book is set before the Christian gospels were written, apart, possibly, from the letters; before Islam, and in a time of turmoil, with young protagonists who would not know or be able to perform the duties of their religion.
It is a book about a central religious figure, but without the religion most readers will expect. It's not there because much of it had not yet been formulated.
But Mary/Maryiam of Nazareth took what might have been the most tragic story in the world, and yet she made it one of joy, a woman of extraordinary courage, a teacher, and very much an historical person that we know of from primary as well as secondary sources. Her life can also be seen as testimony: like so many history has dismissed or diminished, thus woman was never 'just a girl’.
The Lily and the Rose
Age range: 14+
World War I is over, but can there ever truly be peace?
Sophie Higgs, Australian heiress, faces the revolutionary turmoil of Europe to rescue her fellow student, Hannelore, the Prinzessen von Arneburg.
And what of the mysterious Miss Lily? Can she ever return?
Even love seems impossible as the women who helped win the war are expected to forget all they achieved on the battlefields. Sophie is torn between her very different feelings for Nigel, Earl of Shillings; Dolphie, patriot and enemy; and ‘John’, the man who carves stone crosses on Sophie’s Australian property for every man who has died under his command.
his is the second in the Miss Lily series, a cross, perhaps, between James Bond and Downton Abbey, as well as following not just the changing role of women, but how we see ourselves.
Barney and the Secret of the French Spies
Age range: 8+
Barney Bean now has his dream, his own farm. But when Elsie suddenly falls desperately ill, the secret of why she will not speak is revealed.
This story reveals more of the secrets of our past: the French invasion ordered by Napoleon, and the women like Jeanne Barre who disguised themselves as men to take part in great scientific adventures on voyages across the world.
Goodbye Mr Hitler
Age range: 11+
This is the best book I have written and the most deeply important. It is a book that matters – and I have never said that about my work before.
Goodbye Mr Hitler is the third in the loose trilogy that began with Hitler’s Daughter and Pennies for Hitler. It is the story of Johan; of Heide, who has now become Helga Schmidt; and Georg’s mother.
The book still has too powerful a hold on me to write about it – if I could summarise it I wouldn’t have needed to write the book. Perhaps this quotation from the last chapter might say what I can’t about the book and why it is one that so many need to understand, now, today, before the world begins another insane spiral that, as an historian, I recognise too well:
The world has many ogres. Some, like Mr Hitler, do not even know that they are ogres, but dream they are the hero of the story.
But I have learned this in the years since I was ten years old: when you see injustice, stand beside each other and seize your spears. My spears are made of words. Yours may be different. But do not hesitate or look away. If too many look away, the ogres win. To be mostly deeply human we must risk our lives for others. Only when we stand together can we be truly free.
It is not easy fighting ogres. No one who fights an ogre comes away unscarred, even if you cannot see the wounds. And so you owe the ogre hunters this.
When the ogre has been vanquished, sit down upon the quiet earth and try to understand the ogre’s anguish and his twisted fear. Only by understanding can we stop them rising in our midst.
When you understand, forgive.
And then stand up, and live.
Facing the Flame
Age range: 12+
As grass dries and the hot wind howls, Gibbers Creek will burn. But if you love your country, you will fight for it.
Facing the Flame is the seventh in the Matilda series, a heartbreaking and powerful story of the triumph of courage, community and a love for the land so deep that not even bushfire can obliterate it.
Set in the late 1970s, this book tells the story of a small rural community suffering through a debilitating drought. When bushfire catches and spreads, the people of Gibbers Creek must come together to defend their home and all that they have worked for; a dangerous struggle that many Australians must face each year.
Lu Borgino has been recently blinded, but she battles flames to save a racehorse, even though her dreams of being Australia's first professional female jockey have been destroyed.
Scarlett O'Hara risks her hard-won life at medical school and the new love of Alex Romanov, to save a child.
Flinty McAlpine draws on the local knowledge of tens of thousands of years to protect her valley.
All the while Jed Kelly must escape not just bushfire, but the man who plots to kill her with its power.
There have been fires before, but not like this.
Facing the Flame is written for both teenagers and adults.