Book Review: “Secret Girls’ Business” by Fay Angelo, Heather Anderson and Rose Stewart, with illustrations by Julie Davey (#AWW2017)


I grew up knowing nothing about the nature and significance of growing up. Which is why I vaguely understood how 16-year-old Carrietta N. White felt when she had her first period while showering in school in Stephen King’s cult novel Carrie (1974). Back then, puberty was something that no one talked about, not even our parents and school teachers. It was mentioned in our “health education” textbook, with one chapter dedicated to girls and another to boys, but no one bothered teaching or studying the content because it was never included in any tests or examinations. Worse, when some of my fellow students did explore the chapters, their focus was always on the “sex” instead of the “education” part of the so-called sex education.

Which only goes to demonstrate the extent to which an education (or the lack of it in this case) can impact on the shaping of your life. To some mothers (me included), Secret Girls’ Business (2003) is one of those wonderfully useful and highly recommended titles, one that you can wait for two months for a copy from the local library and then hand over to your daughter with whispered words such as, “Read it, and we’ll talk in private if there’s anything you don’t understand.” It is one of those titles that your daughter would finish reading in five minutes and cast aside, shrugging, because her teachers in school have already discussed the details. She would talk to her friends about it at parties and/or sleepovers, but not with you, because you are either too busy or too uneasy to respond to her questions in detail. (Many literary metaphors become useful when discussions do occur.) And it makes you feel slightly guilty, especially when you wake up in the middle of the night with the shocking realisation that all you want your daughter to know is to stay away from sex for as long as possible or at least until she is mature and secure with a honest, caring and responsible partner.

Anyway, I finally (and quickly) flipped through Secret Girls’ Business while writing this review, and was surprised to find out how intelligent and delightful this little book is. Packed with helpful advice and many funny colourful illustrations, the book discusses puberty and its many implications in a friendly, loving manner and with a huge sense of humour. I was most impressed with tips such as “We’re all different and that’s OK” and “It’s OK to ask for some privacy and to enjoy more cuddles”. Words such as “Be proud of yourself” are also precious, particularly when one has long learned how important yet difficult it is to do so.

Regarding the authors, Fay Angelo is an assistant principle, pupil welfare coordinator and teacher; Heather Anderson is a sexual and reproductive health nurse and sexuality educator; and Rose Stewart is a teacher and child psychologist. Meanwhile, Julie Davey was a nurse and is now an author, illustrator and publisher. These four ladies have done an excellent job in creating Secret Girls’ Business, and I really think all schools and libraries across Australia should be equipped with at least one copy of this book. What I need now is to get a copy of Secret Boys Business from our local library, which I will then hand over to my husband so that he can talk about it with our son…


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: May Non-Fiction Round up | Australian Women Writers Challenge Blog

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