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Outlaw Girls

By Emily Gale & Nova Weetman

Reviewed by Lara Cain Gray

Outlaw Girls is an action-packed middle grade timeslip novel from Emily Gale and Nova Weetman, the team behind CBCA Notable Elsewhere Girls. This is not a sequel, but the two books would make enjoyable companion reads, or a giftable set. Each deals with relatable themes of family, friendship and self-discovery, whilst inviting the reader to experience history in action.
Kate and Ruby have a lot in common. They both live in regional Victoria – the ‘high country’ – and are skilled horse riders. They’re struggling with their families’ expectations of who they ought to be and finding ways to bend a few rules in the name of adventure. They could be best friends, if only they weren’t separated by 140-odd years!
Ruby and her friends relieve the boredom of small town life with occasional bouts of bad behaviour. When this escalates to a joyride in a tractor, Ruby’s mum sends her for a stay at her uncle’s farm to have a long, hard look at herself. But the farm hides a secret – a portal between the past and present, accessed via ghostly horse chaperones. Quite accidentally, Ruby finds herself in 1878.
There she meets Kate, who is also caught up in low key lawbreaking, but for Kate the stakes are higher. Her brother Ned and his gang are in hiding from the police and Kate is sneaking them supplies. Ruby becomes an accomplice to the Kelly gang, living through a story she knows from the history books. Unfortunately, that also means Ruby knows that disaster is coming for the Kellys. Should she intervene to change history? And how will this impact her special and unique new friendship?
Suitable for readers 10+, this novel is rich in historical detail, including an Afterword that speaks to the research process. It brings the Kelly myth to life, focusing on the Kelly women. As a time traveler, Ruby acts as a translator for the reader, identifying social and economic changes over time, and grappling with ideas of justice, loyalty and revenge. Whilst history itself might not change, the ways in which we interrogate it do. This book brings opportunities for nuanced reflection on the Kelly myth beyond ‘good’ and ‘bad’ towards exploration of the drivers of crime, including racism, poverty and illiteracy.

Teaching Notes

Text Publishing 2024

Emily Gale 

Nova Weetman

Lara Cain Gray’s book The Grown Up’s Guide To Picture Books is being published in September this year.

1942 Amsterdam Ave NY (212) 862-3680

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