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The Girls Who Changed the World: Ming and Marie Spy for Freedom by Jackie French

Title: The Girls Who Changed the World: Ming and Marie Spy for Freedom

A pink sky above a bombed out city. an Asian girl in a green uniform and white girl with blonde hair and layered clothing stand on the rubble under the pink and white words: The Girls who changed the world Ming and Marie Spy for Freedom by Jackie French.

Author: Jackie French

Genre: Historical Fiction, Time Slip

Publisher: HarperCollins Australia

Published: 3rd August 2022

Format: Paperback

Pages: 304

Price: $16.99

Synopsis: An empowering and exhilarating look at the girls who went before us, and the way they shaped the world.

Ming Qong is convinced that girls have changed the world throughout history.

So when Ming is thrust back in time to Belgium during WWI, only to be rescued from a burning cellar by Marie — an experienced spy at only twelve years of age — she finally has her proof. Marie is involved with a female secret resistance group who risk their lives to outwit the German troops.

But Ming now faces a tough choice: will she send coded messages and risk her own life in this war on which the future depends?

As Ming learns, change is never easy, so how can one girl change the world?

From one of Australia’s favourite writers comes an inspiring series for all the young people who will, one day, change the world.

~*~

Ming Qong is back – but this time, she’s been sent into the battlefields of 1916 Belgium with her brother Tuan, and a world of spies and a place where Ming was surrounded by women only. All the men were off fighting, in prison, injured, or dead – apart from the invading Germans who are trying to destroy Belgium and find out who La Dame Blanche is as World War One – or as it was known then, The Great War – rages across Europe. Ming is rescued by Marie and whisked off to a house filled with female resistance spies, and Marie is pulled into the intrigue, where she must knit coded messages to try to outwit the Germans. But Marie is worried about Tuan – where has Marie hid him, and who are the other women involved? And as Ming hears whispers about a new weapon that the Germans hope to use to win the war, can she pass on the message before it is too late, and help the Allies win the war as they are supposed to do?

The second book in the Girls that Changed the World series takes Ming to Belgium in 1916, as Herstory tries to show Ming more untold stories, but also prove that she’s disappointed with what Ming did in 1898 – and Herstory wants to show Ming what she is capable of. The second book in the series doesn’t shy away from the horrors of war, of what Marie and the people of Belgium went through. I think this is important – to show the reality, through the eyes of a child, and using language that younger children can understand and relate to, as it means that it opens the world of stories and history to as many readers as possible. It shows the reality of what happened and highlighting the hidden stories. History books often reflect on the battles, on the stories of the battlefields and in general, what the men saw and experienced. Sometimes we get stories about the nurses in battlefield hospitals. Jackie French is one of many Australian women authors taking the role of women in resistance movements in World War One and World War Two, the stories of spies and the stories of women throughout history and turning them into stories for all ages.

I have been enjoying these books in the last few years because they give more depth to history than the textbooks often used in school, and would be a great resource to be used across the school curriculum to explore history further and show that there are all sorts of stories to be told and explored, and different ways we can learn about history. Historical fiction like this can give readers an in for history, a way to interest them, or expand their interests. It allows readers to explore history in new ways as well, and perhaps these books will spark further interest and research into various historical periods and figures. I do love that so many books like this are giving women a voice – it makes history vibrant and shows that the wide array of stories we have missed out on at times.

I love the Girls Who Changed the World series, because it shows all the things I love about history, and all the stories I wish had been more of a part of my high school studies, and further history studies. They’re the kind of stories that would have been engaging and interesting, and shown that history has many more stories than those that came from the people who recorded and wrote history, and decided what would be known. It shows that the way we need to tell history needs to be equal for everyone, that we shouldn’t leave out certain stories, and that there is space for all stories and experiences to be told, so that everyone has something the engage with. I loved the way it came together and am wondering if this is the end of Ming’s journey, and subsequent books will feature different girls. Either way, I can’t wait to see what else is in this series, and what will happen with Herstory. I’m a big fan, and will keep an eye out for what will come next.

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