The Girl Hero Project wants to build the self-esteem and nurture the creativity of young girls by providing a positive and safe online space for them to write, share and inspire each other. It wants to show every girl that she has have the power to shine and make positive change in the world – and that they don’t have to be a super hero to do it!
A digital platform for regular writing competitions, galleries to create and share their own inspirations, Girl Heroes from History resource sheets, and features on contemporary and Australian girl heroes, the Project gives young girls the opportunity to be a part of a shared conversation and the chance to encourage each other to be the best they can be.
Inspired by the thousands of messages she has received from mothers and girls who read her series EJ12 Girl Hero, writer and publisher Susannah McFarlane was moved to create The Girl Hero Project as a way to help counterbalance the negative messaging that surrounds many young girls today.
‘Our girls hit puberty and are bombarded by a world of unrealistic images of “beauty” and “perfection” and they find little escape from a rapacious 24/7 social media,’ Susannah says. ‘I wanted them to give them something that might help break that fall in how they see themselves.’
‘The EJ12 stories have helped young girls find the hero in themselves, to be brave and to stand up for the things they believed in. Stories and words are powerful: they help us understand our world and ourselves and they help us connect to each other. They shape our thoughts and can help us make better choices.
‘Over the years I’ve received hundreds of letters from girls who have written their own EJ fan fiction, inserting themselves into the adventure and writing stories of courage and problem-solving. And on the blog they encourage each other, support each other, cheer each other on. Inspired, they are now inspiring others. That’s the power of words and story.’
‘I want to keep girls talking and writing, and keep talking to girls. I want them to join the conversation and turn it to not what they might want, but they might give. There is an incredible energy and passion in young girls that I want to help ignite. I want them to keep thinking about what they can do – what girls can do – and how they can be the best they can be, to do the best for the world.’
‘I want The Girl Hero Project to be a project that encourages, shares and inspires.’
Susannah McFarlane is the author, creator and publisher of some of Australia’s most successful children’s book series.
She is the creator and writer of the awarding-winning EJ12 Girl Hero and EJ Spy School series (both Scholastic Australia) , the creator and co-author (under the pen-name Mac Park) of the hugely popular series for boys, Boy vs Beast (Scholastic Australia), the author of the Little Mates series of alphabet books for under fives (Scholastic Australia). She is also the series editor for Stuff Happens! (Penguin Random House Australia), a series for boys about the everyday challenges they face. A new series for reluctant-readers, D-Bot Squad, under the pen-name Mac Park, will be published by Allen & Unwin in July 2017.
Susannah, who was also the original concept creator of two of Australia’s leading tween fiction series Go Girl! and Zac Power, understands kids and loves creating stories they enjoy to read.
Kids love the stories she writes, but Susannah’s series also address important issues she is passionate about – getting kids reading, and getting them reading the right things. With over twenty years experience in children’s publishing, Susannah understands the importance of giving kids stories they want to read as well as ones their parents and teachers can trust.
Just because they can read a book, doesn’t mean they should. It’s not just the mechanical ability to read the text, but the emotional ability to understand it that’s important for kids when it comes to choosing books. And often they get it wrong. Schoolyard buzz and ‘reading up’ can encourage kids to read too far outside their emotional readiness. Eight-year-old girls reading about boyfriends, six year-olds reading stories about fashion and shopping malls – Susannah believes kids should be kids a little longer and is passionate about helping them do that.
In both her own EJ12 Girl Hero series and in Go Girl!, the bestselling series that she commissioned in 2004, Susannah ensures the stories are age-appropriate and free from the consumerism and label-frenzy that is often targeted to young girls.
When Susannah was growing up, she wanted to be a cowboy. She didn’t want to be a boy, just a cowboy, out doing cowboy stuff like lassoing and finding lost cattle. She certainly didn’t want to be cooking dinner back at the homestead.
And growing up Susannah read, and was read, books about strong women ‘doing’ things (although not always good things as was often the case of Elizabeth in The Naughtiest Girl in the School!).
When she had a young daughter of her own and became interested in what role models she might look up to, she saw that too many of the strong girls in books and movies were only the side-kick to the boys – the Hermione to the Harry Potter. And as a publisher she saw series after series that focused on pretty, passive things – fairies, puppies, princesses.
Hmmmm, she thought, might this have something to do with why so many girls seem to have competence but not confidence?
And so, with Go Girl! she decided today’s girls needed a dose of real life and created a series that dealt with the stories and issues of real girls. Then with EJ12 Girl Hero, she decided it was the girls’ turn to save the world – and who better to do so than a bright, friendly but slightly nervous 10 year-old who loves maths and cracking codes?
Emma Jacks may not always believe in herself, but the SHINE agency does and sends her all over the world to foil the evil plans of SHADOW. The girls often don’t notice but in the stories – brother and father excepted – there is not a single male character. Every time a scientist, a pilot, a marine biologist, a sports coach, and even a villain appears she is female, subtly underlining that girls can, and do, do anything – it’s their turn to shine!