Title: Ming and Flo Fight for the Future
Author: Jackie French
Genre: Historical Fiction/Time Slip
Publisher: HarperCollins Australia
Published: 2nd March 2022
Synopsis: An empowering and exhilarating look at the girls who went before us, and the way they shaped the world.
Twelve-year-old Ming Qong is convinced that girls must have changed the world, even if they are rarely mentioned in history books.
So when Ming gets the chance to go back in time, she imagines herself changing destinies from a glittering palace or an explorer’s ship. Instead, she ends up in Australia in 1898, living a tough life as Flo Watson on a drought-stricken farm.
Luckily, Ming is rescued by Flo’s Aunt McTavish. Wealthy Aunt McTavish belongs to Louisa Lawson’s Suffragist Society, who are desperately and courageously fighting for women’s rights. And Ming is determined to get involved, to make a difference.
But change is never easy, so how can one girl change the world?
From one of Australia’s favourite writers comes an inspiring new series for all the young people who will, one day, change the world.
Ming Qong is stuck in boarding school, learning about history, and the triumphs of men. She’s convinced that there’s more to the story than she’s being told, though her brother, Tuan, and teacher, are convinced that girls and women did nothing in history. All Ming wants to do is prove them wrong – so Herstory thrusts her back in time, and Ming finds herself living the life of Flo Watson, who is rescued by Aunt McTavish, who thrusts Ming into the world of the suffragettes, educating poor children, and finding her place, which leads Ming to Emily – and the potential for Emily to become part of the family. But Ming finds the process of changing the world slow and disheartening. Can she change the world before her Time runs out?
The latest book from Jackie French is another fabulous look at women in history, and what they really did, rather than what the history books assume. Throughout many of her books, Jackie has, in my view, strived to tell herstory – allowing women to have a voice and presence in history, the stories behind the assumptions that were based on what was expected of women. Figures like Louisa Lawson, mother to Henry Lawson, worked hard during the years preceding federation to gain equal rights for everyone and the vote for all of voting age – and they achieved some of this, for certain groups, but not everything they wanted – that would take many more years, and in some ways, we are still working towards the type of equality that women like Aunt McTavish and Louisa Lawson said they wanted to see.
Ming can live through this history rather than just witnessing it as Herstory wants her to. Reading history is one thing for Ming, yet being able to live it changes the way Ming understands history and allows her to see these lives through a different light, though she keeps referring back to her own life as she has her memories and Flo’s memories, which makes the story interesting as we see the conflict of what Ming knows and what she needs to learn, and what she can use to help, whilst trying to remember that she can’t reveal too much to these people in case she alters history and erases herself – always a risk with time travel.
The power of books like these is that they reassure us that it is not always big things, big actions, that create change. Sometimes it is small things – petitions, finding the right people to be with, working underground, fitting in yet surreptiously working to get people’s attention that builds change and creates an awareness of what is going on. When we read these stories that highlight the hidden stories, or that bring what we know about things like the suffragette movement to the forefront of our minds, it reminds us that there are many voices who have been lost to history, because they were women, because they were poor, because they weren’t white – so many reasons that these stories are not always taught, or where we’re not always told everything. In some cases, we’re told what the victors and those who write the history books want us to know, rather than giving us a fuller, diverse, and therefore richer experience of history.
Jackie’s books always have a unique take on history, based on what is known, and the stories often hidden from the official record, and she gives those who are rendered silent and voiceless. It’s one of the reasons I love her books. I learn more about history from them, and sometimes things I never knew, and that Australia has always had a diverse cultural make-up, despite history books and records appearing to make us think otherwise, due to what their authors have chosen to focus on. We need these stories – to empower us, to educate us, and to let people young and old that they can change the world – that something can be done when you witness inequality and want to change it. It might take time, and it might take a lot of people fighting as Ming finds out, but in the end, you can make a difference, even if it is only in the lives of a few people, even if it is a small, seemingly insignificant change. It will still be important enough to those who live through it. Jackie manages to put these important messages into all her books and make them exciting and entertaining – and that I think, is the best way to learn history!