This Girl That Girl
Allen & Unwin, 2016
32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99
This is this girl, and that is that girl. This girl likes to do things like this, and that girl likes to do things like that. Neighbours who are so different – one demure, the other eccentric; one tidy, the other messy; one domesticated; one not so much. And each has a dad who is the opposite to who they are and each lives in a house that is not what you would expect. Miss Prim and Proper lives in a wacky colourful house complete with slides and rope bridges and a falling-down fence, while Miss Wild and Free lives in an orderly, symmetrical home reminiscent of a formal English mansion enclosed by a walled garden. Are they SO different that they can never be friends – or are the similarities that unite stronger that the differences which divide? The answer comes when both dads decide to build a treehouse – with the help of their respective daughters…
Vignettes on each page provide insights into the characters of each girl (and the patience of their fathers) and no doubt readers will recognise themselves in some of them and wish they could be like one or the other.
Author and illustrator Charlotte Lance says that the story was inspired by her two sons who are so different but regardless, they each get to where they need to be even if the route is different. But before I read the publisher’s blurb, as I read the story I was thinking that they were one and the same girl, each with an inner personality trying to break through. Did Miss Prim and Proper really, deep within, want to be Miss Wild and Free and vice versa? Or were they two separate girls determined to break free of their fathers’ influence by being the opposite of them? Perhaps those questions are way too deep for the intended audience of young readers but I do like books that pose such philosophical questions that can be explored and take the reader’s thinking to a deeper level.
Perhaps it’s just a fun story told in minimal text but maximum colour and movement about how personalities and talents can combine to produce a similar outcome – that despite the particular pathway we take, co-operation, collaboration and determination will deliver us to our destination. And that there is no right way or wrong way, no better or worse – just different. The ultimate message is the total love between father and daughter and their unquestioning acceptance of each other for who they are, even if it’s not quite the same as them. That has to be good.