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“The culture was gradually changing. Geoffrey Trease usually teamed his heroes with an adventurous girl, and Rosemary Sutcliff sometimes threw in a significant female character, like the fierce child Regina in ‘Dawn Wind’ – but the default option for historical children’s fiction remained male, and it sometimes seemed as if the most exciting thing to happen to a girl in all of history had been when Flora MacDonald rowed Bonnie Prince Charlie over the sea to Skye. You couldn’t have adventures in a skirt.”

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