Guest Post | Why we still need strong girls in stories?

I am delighted by being joined by author, Lari Don, as she celebrates publishing her latest title, Fierce, Fearless and Free. Not only does Lari's latest book put women and girls in the forefront of traditional myths and legends, but advocates a diverse range of cultures from around the world.
I don't want to keep you for long, so let me introduce Lari Don talking about...
Why we still need strong girls in stories

We all recognise the importance of young readers seeing themselves in stories, but I believe we should also make sure it’s not just contemporary stories that are inclusive and inspiring. We need to pay attention to the old stories too.

Because the old stories -  myths, legends, fairy tales and folktales – are the building blocks of many new stories. and they have a strong hold on our culture and imagination. So, what are girls (and boys) seeing when they look at many of our best-known traditional tales?

Stories with no girls in them at all
Stories about girls waiting to be saved by boys
Stories about girls who are given away as prizes (kill the dragon, marry the princess!)
Stories starring girls who are rewarded for being patient, enduring, polite, kind, silent, passive or, of course, pretty.

Is that what we want to be showing girls and boys? I hope not! But we don’t have to rewrite the old stories, we just have to search for the stories that have always existed, in all cultures, about strong active girls who solve their own problems and defeat their own monsters…

Stories like:

The myth of Inanna, the Sumerian goddess of love and war, who fought a mountain because he didn’t respect her and threatened the people who worshipped her. This is a female character who flies her own chariot, wields her own weapons, stands up for her own rights, and wrestles a mountain to the ground. (And songs were sung to this goddess, praising her strength and power, more than four thousand years ago. Strong women and their stories have always existed!)

The Siberian legend about Altyn Aryg, whose father refused to accept that she could lead a tribe, because she was a girl. So she set off to prove him wrong, searching for a giant serpent that had devoured hundreds of male warriors, running into its belly and defeating it with her strong sword-arm. This is a traditional story that directly addresses sexism, and shows the father eventually recognising his daughter’s courage and ability, and naming her as his heir.

There are also stories showing girls can be active and strong without wielding a weapon, like the story of Kandek, an Armenian farmgirl who met a werewolf on the edge of the forest, and used clever words and agility to escape the werewolf’s claws and cooking pot …

But the most important thing about the stories I tell in Fierce Fearless and Free, is that they are not aimed solely at a female audience. I tell these stories in school canteens, classrooms, tents, and sometimes even caves and castles, to girls and to boys. And I never get any complaints that I’ve told a story ‘for girls’. 

Because I don’t just share these heroine tales to make a point, I share them because they are really exciting stories! 

Thank you, Lari! I couldn't agree more on the vitality of girls being able to read traditional stories and recognise themselves in those narratives. It's incredibly important in our development, and you're totally right - they are exciting stories that keep you enticed and engrossed.

Fierce, Fearless and Free
Lari Don
Release Date | 5th March 2020
Genre | MG
Page Count | 160

UK Publisher | Bloomsbury
A brilliant, inclusive collection of traditional tales from around the world featuring amazing women and girls. Once upon a time, there was a handsome prince who - no, that's not right! Once upon a time, there were strong, fierce women who plotted, schemed, took action, showed kindness, used magic and trickery, and made their own destiny. From the long-haired Petrosinella who escaped the tower and broke the spell that the ogress had cast over her and Nana Miriam who beat a hippo using politeness and magic, to Kate Crackernuts who tried to save her stepsister from her mother's curse, these are stories of girls doing it for themselves! With stories drawn from all over the world, including China, Scotland, Armenia, Italy and Nigeria, Lari Don presents heroine stories that don't leave girls sitting around waiting to be saved by the handsome prince.

About the Author

Lari Don is an award-winning writer for young people of all ages. She loved Scottish traditional tales as a child, and now loves gathering myths, legends and folktales from all over the world to inspire her novels. Since becoming a full-time author, she has written more than 30 children’s books, from picture books and early readers to middle-grade adventure novels and a teen thriller. Lari is passionate about visiting schools and libraries to share the traditional tales she loves, to show how those old stories can be used to inspire new stories, and to encourage young people to create their own adventures. Fierce, Fearless and Free is her fifth collection of traditional tales for Bloomsbury, returning to the theme of her first, the bestselling Girls, Goddesses and Giants. She lives in Edinburgh with her husband and two fierce, fearless and free daughters.

Follow the tour, see below for where to go next:

Wrap-Up | Nov 2019

Hello. It's February and I'm sat in the library using the wifi.
I've missed blogging. I've missed writing my thoughts, writing reviews, taking part in the overall bookish discussions. Not having consistent wifi is proving a challenge; it takes a lot of motivation, as well as finding a specific time for me to set myself up somewhere to work on editing a draft to post. Usually, I write early hours in the morning when the house is quiet, and I feel like I'm on my own.
I'm rambling, but there was a purpose to this: 2020 is the year where I'm really focused on my goals. I want to put the time in once a week to come to the library, write, edit and post, as well as limit spending on books so that I can tick off all the books that I own, and that are unread.
Now, let's go back in time a little bit. What did I read, watch and do in the month of November?

Juno Dawson

My Thoughts:
First of all, I fell like I should mention that content warnings for this book consist of drug addiction and drug abuse. However, to list all warnings would mean that you would be reading this post all day. Please do additional research if you think that this might contain something triggering to you.

Clean was an unexpected read in the month of November, but it's one I'm glad that I did. I don't think the reality of drug addiction and recognizing what it means to be an addict isn't really covered in YA, or done in a manner that is an easily digestible read. Juno Dawson tackles this heavy topic with heart and respect. What an important book! 

The Missing Girl
Shirley Jackson

My Thoughts:
For me, the horror genre is split in two. You have horror and then terror; one is visual, the other is phycological. For me Shirley Jackson is one of the best of the latter - I love her short story The Lottery and the way it unravels. This just didn't cut it for me and was overall rather forgettable. 

The Yearbook Committee
Sarah Ayoub

My Thoughts:
I shouldn't have read this so close in succession to Clean, as they both used drugs to some effect, but The Yearbook Committee felt underdeveloped and juvenile.

A Curse so Dark and Lonely (Cursebreakers #1)
Brigid Kemerer

My Thoughts: 
I always think I'm done with Beauty and the Beast retellings and then one comes along and bites my ankles. This was fresh and didn't fall into the trap of Stockholm Syndrome and instalove that often personifies in YA retellings.  

Fortunately, The Milk
Written by Neil Gaiman; Illustrated by Chris Riddell

My Thoughts:
I have a faint recollection of reading this one afternoon in my then, local  library, many moons ago. However, I had completely forgotten the existance of it until my little brother came home from school one night and proceeded to read it in one sitting... and then I did too. 
It's a sweet story! One I definitely recommend to read to a kid - although, please don't randomly sit down next to one and start reading. Make sure you know them first!

The Nightjar
Deborah Hewitt

My Thoughts:
This was sent to me by the lovely team at PanMac, after I had read the synopsis and the pitch. Unfortunately this one just fell completely flat on it's face and every time I thought it was picking up and moving in a direction I liked, the protagonist seemed to make illogical and ill-informed choices that left me wanting to shake her shoulder and tell her to get a bloody grip!

Temeraire (Temeraire #1)
Naomi Novik

My Thoughts:
I've been planning on doing a reread of Temeraire for ages, but just never got round to doing it. 
I'm really pleased  did though, even though I didn't feel like it was quite a favourite anymore, I still really love the relationship between Temeraire and his rider, Lawerence.

The Subtle Knife (His Dark Materials #2)
Philip Pullman

My Thoughts:
I'm really loving my decision to reread Pullman's His Dark Materials at the moment, even though I have been holding off fro read The Amber Spyglass for months because I don't want to get to the end. (To be fair, I do own La Belle Sauvage if I ever feel inclined to return.) 
I've said this before when I wrote about reading Northern Lights, but there is something wonderful about having left it so long that I don't remember a lot of the plot points and being able to put new meaning to the context of the world building and character relationships that I didn't quite understand as a young child. Much like Serafina and Lee Scorsby, which by the end of this book made me soft at how the lengths they will go for Lyra. 

The Graveyard Book
Neil Gaiman

My Thoughts:
I have some recollection of this story, but never of reading it. I'm pretty sure they were adapting this to a movie and tv show, with a cast and everything, because I remember it being featured on Blue Peter when I was growing up.
That being said, is there a Neil Gaiman book that I will give anything less than four stars to? I loved how this didn't feel like one story, but an anthology of snippets of Bod's life growing up in this graveyard and how he developed in adulthood. 

All the Bad Apples
Moira Fowley-Doyle

My Thoughts:
My GOD! When I bought this last year, I had heard some fantastic things that made it sound like I was going to be a new favourite book; and it did not disappoint. 

His Dark Materials
Adapted by Jack Thorne

This is the adaptation that we all deserved! The cast was electric and magnificent, projecting us into the polar fantasy landscape that I have wanted to see visually since I first read the books... and then was left with a sour note after the 2007 adaptation. 
My only gripe was the handling of daemons. They were completely put in post-production which limited the interaction between humans and daemons. It wasn't apparent in the first couple of episodes but there's a scene in the book that is rather integral to understanding the bond that felt like it was downplayed by the alteration Jack Thorne made. (Can you tell I am TRYING REALLY HARD to not spoil anything?) And how Lyra's first instincts just felt like it missed the mark. Hopefully, this is something that get's taken on board as they go on to develop the final series.
However, I am really glad I had decided to reread The Subtle Knife when I did because... spoilers.

Carnaval Row
Created by René Echevarria and Travis Beachum
I was hesitant about going into this. I'm not fond of either Orlando Bloom and Cara Delevingne and as the leading roles I was pretty 'eh'; its PR and Marketing were intense and were being hailed as "the next Game of Thrones" (see why I was terrified?). But, that being said, I think this was the best performance I have ever seen from Bloom and Delevingne. Along with the supporting cast such as Tamsin Merchant, Andrew Gower, Indira Verma, and Jared Harris: it was spectacular! 
If you love gritty detective noir and steampunk narratives, I think this one is definitely one to give a go.

As I briefly mentioned at the start of this blog post, I haven't had constant internet for the past several months. This is why in 2020 I have had to make the elective decision to spend more time at the library then I wish to.
Hello. How are we all?

Not much else happened in November.
I attended my first launch event as a work event rather than something to do in the evening. That was terrifying and I am pretty sure I looked just like the fool as I felt. Get me in a room talking books, I'm good. Handbags? Useless.
At this point, life was getting a little too much for me. I was not going out, I wasn't reaching out to friends as much as I should and was keeping some stuff close to my chest. I'm not going to go into that here, either, it wouldn't be fair as it involves family members. Nor is it for me to talk about with a bunch of strangers on the internet.

Book Haul | January 2020 (#Gifted)

Let's go 3-for-3, how about that?
Something that is finally relevant to the year we are currently inhabiting - there's a metaphor in there somewhere.
This year I am really trying to make the conscious effort of reducing the books I am buying and requesting from publishers to try and reduce the TBR pile by a lot. It was going okay... until all the publicists unleashed their secret weapon; their blogger lists.

Fragile Things: Short Fictions & Wanderings
Neil Gaiman
**Bought in a charity shop near work - I immediately picked it up when I realized that there was a few short stories in this one I have yet to read.**
UK Publisher | Headline
UK Release Date | 2007 (this edition)

A Blink of the Screen
Terry Pratchett
**At a similar time, I picked this up for 50p. Short fiction is fantastic when I'm feeling slumpy and need to shake it up a bit.**
UK Publisher | Doubleday
UK Release Date | October 29th, 2012

The Stars We Steal
Alexa Donne
**Received from the publisher as a gift in exchange for an honest and truthful review**
UK Publisher | Titan Books
UK Release Date | February 4th, 2020

The Golden Key 
Marian Womack
**Received from the publisher as a gift in exchange for an honest and truthful review**
UK Publisher | Titan Books
UK Release Date | February 18th, 2020

The Bitter Twins (The Winnowing Flame Trilogy #2)
Jen Williams
**I recieved a copy from the publisher when it was first published, but I then passed it onto a friend after I had read it - so I bought a smaller paperback signed when I popped into Forbidden Planet.**
UK Publisher | Headline
UK Release Date | August 8th, 2018

The Library of the Unwritten (Hell's Library #1)
A.J. Hackwith
**Received from the publisher as a gift in exchange for an honest and truthful review**
UK Publisher | Titan Books
UK Release Date | February 11th, 2020

Bone Grier's Moon (Bone Grace #1)
Kathryn Purdie
**Received from the publisher as a gift in exchange for an honest and truthful review**
UK Publisher | Katherine Tegen Books
UK Release Date | March 10th, 2020

A Queen in Hiding (The Nine Realms #1)
Sarah Kozloff
**Received from the publisher as a gift in exchange for an honest and truthful review**
UK Publisher | Tor Books UK
UK Release Date | January 21st, 2020

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