Book review – Just a Girl

A taster for further reading of the gospels

Set in 72 CE, the story follows Judith, her great-grandmother, Rabba, and her baby sister as they escape from the pillaging of their village in Judea.

They hide in some caves above the village and later they are joined by Caius, an abandoned Roman slave, who admits he is a Christian and is curious to hear about Maryiam of Nazareth, the mother of Jesus, who Rabba knew when she was younger. Rabba is extremely reluctant to tell Maryiam’s story, but gradually she shares much of it, including the scandal Maryiam faced at being not yet married, but pregnant, then the anguish at the death of her son.

Caius is also able to tell what he understands of the faith of his parents and his own faith. And Judith is able to marry the faith story with the history – it all adds up to the title of the book, Just a Girl, for neither Maryiam, nor indeed Judith, was ever just a girl.

This is an interesting story, as much for its telling of some of Mary’s story, as for the history of Judea under the Romans. In this day when so many of our children are unfamiliar with Jesus and Mary and their stories as told in the Bible, this story provides a taster, and hopefully a challenge to go and read the gospel accounts.

The historical background is addressed by Jackie French in the appendix.

This is not the first of Jackie French’s books to sit conveniently around stories from the Bible. Pharaoh:The boy who Conquered the Nile (2007), sits well around the Old Testament stories of Abraham.

Review by Katie Stanley, Teacher Librarian


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 Book cover ‘Just a Girl’

Just a Girl, by Jackie French. HarperCollins 2018.  Recommended for 11+