Since childhood, I’ve always admired the proud, funny and independent girls of Robin Klein’s books. Some of her characters, such as the feisty Penny Pollard, were outrageous to me, thumbing their noses at the stifling expectations of “girlhood”, not so much to be rebellious, but in order to just be themselves. Others were quiet, the Un-Noticeables, who were kind and quirky, toyed with loneliness, and were alternately crushed and buoyed by the waves of both good and bad friendships. We know all those girls. We’ve been those girls. At times, we probably still are.
For me, no one quite evoked the childhood of ‘80s Australian suburbia as well as Robin did. Reading her books often felt like home, like being surrounded by people I knew except that by the end of the story, some clarity would be reached and I would be reassured in a way that rarely happens in life. The sounds, the sights, the accents… the blare of the telly, the chops ‘n’ sausages in the fridges, the camaraderie and enmity of siblings, and the casual authority that could be held over you by the tuckshop lady, your Mum’s boyfriend or an old woman on a crowded bus. Robin’s books explored this carousel of people, those who slot in to our young life, for brief or extended times, and who form the strange fabric of childhood worlds that sometimes destabilised us and yet provided security.
We needed to know that that world can make sense, and her books showed us that someone like ourselves could achieve this. The stories were usually told by someone a little bit like me. Or at least, someone else who was also a bit odd, and on the wrong end of the girls’ popularity tussles at school. Or someone I would secretly like to have been, or hoped I would become, or at least meet one day! As kooky and driven as Erica Yurken, as wild and unstoppable as Penny Pollard, or as self-possessed and content as all of her beautiful Un-Noticeables became. Robin’s books taught me that whatever you love – do it. Just be your true self and be compassionate towards others who are trying to do the same thing.
Creative. Proud. Thoughtful. Hilarious. Active. Compassionate. Clever. Adventurous. Unique. Independent.
Good words for girls to be. Maybe they’ll grow up to be Strumpets! Thank you Robin.