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.
‘Thank you for such age-appropriate and inspiring books.’
– Lynne, mother of Brooke
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 Hermonione 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!
‘They are VERY original and its a book series that shows girls that anything is possible and that all you need to do is have pride in yourself and never give up.’
In 2005 Susannah, then co-owner and publisher of Hardie Grant Egmont, created the idea of Zac Power, which is now Australia’s biggest-selling series for boys. Her inspiration was very close to home: her son Edvard was a reluctant reader. By understanding why Edvard wasn’t reading and what he wanted to read, she, and her clever team, created a series that ‘has transformed the literary landscape for young boys.’ And the biggest prize? Edvard read them all!
Now in partnership with leading educational consultant Louise Park she has tackled the hard-core reluctant reader with their series Boy vs Beast.
Boy vs Beast takes reading to young boys on their own terms
Because it is like the cards they collect, the TV they watch and the games they play, Boy vs Beast will hook reluctant readers and build their reading skills – and their enjoyment of books!
The two creators, both mums and children’s publishers, have hijacked the favourite TV and gaming worlds of boys to create a series of books that will engage and develop the young reader.
In Boy vs Beast, 21st-century boy takes on ancient beasts in battles to defend Earth. Kai Masters, 12 years old, is a Border Guard charged with protecting earth from the unruly beasts of Beastium who try to crash through the border wall. With the help of his robotic dog, BC, Kai learns to battle the beasts and keep Earth safe.
And, with the help of carefully planned pages and stories, our youngest reading boys develop their reading skills while losing themselves in a story packed with action.
Read about Susannah McFarlane’s personal battle to get her son reading here.
If you would like more information and tips on getting boys reading, you can also visit the Reading Battle Over website where Susannah and co-creator Louise Park share some more of their ideas.