Simi Genziuk is the first (and maybe the only) Affirm Press author-slash-circus artist. The Melbourne-born, Byron-based performer didn’t find her passion until the age of 30, and now in her non-fiction picture book So She Did, illustrated by Renée Treml, Simi shares the wonderful world of the circus with young readers in this inspiring story celebrating the life of Australia’s bareback riding queen, May Wirth.

I’ve always been drawn to adventure. I was travelling around Australia when a new friend introduced me to trapeze, and I was hooked straight away. I completely immersed myself in the world of circus and I just knew that I’d found my people and my community. I trained hard but I loved it, and I spent many years as a trapeze artist performing with traditional circuses around Australia and with contemporary circuses around the world.

Later in my career, after I met my husband the Master Showman Shep Huntly, I became more interested in circus sideshow and specialised in ‘strong woman’ stunts like the hairhang (where I hang a washing machine from my hair) and tearing a phone book in half.

After my daughter was born I noticed a real gap in the market when it came to the representation of girls in picture books. For the most part, girls were missing from the narrative altogether or were portrayed as princesses or fairies. I wanted to bring girls to the forefront of exciting adventure stories because boys aren’t the only ones who like to break the rules and do dangerous things. Girls need to see accurate representations of themselves in books, but I also believe that it’s so important for young boys to read stories about bold, adventurous girls so that they grow up understanding we are all equal.

So She Did celebrates the life of May Wirth, who was born in Bundaberg in 1894 and went on to become an internationally famous circus performer. May was renowned for being the first woman in the world to perform the back across – an incredibly risky trick that involved somersaulting from one cantering horse to another. That she did it at a time when girls and women weren’t encouraged to be daring makes it all the more impressive.