From Stella Street to Amsterdam
Allen & Unwin, 2020
432pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99
In 1995 Elizabeth Honey wrote 45 & 47 Stella Street, a story told by Henni Octon, writer-to-be. of what happened to Zev, Danielle, Frank and Briquette the dog and everyone else when The Phonies moved into their street and started to spoil everything. It was funny and fast, and very scary and they never knew what was going to happen next! Over the years more tales were added to the series , and each time a new one was released there was a reserves queue that necessitated buying multiple copies!
Now, 25 years on, there is a new addition that is not only a great read in itself, but which could well spark a stampede to read the original stories in the series, (So search your shelves to see if you have the others on hand in readiness!)
In this one, Henni’s stubborn old neighbour Willa insists on returning to her childhood home in the Netherlands for a wedding, and Henni leaps at the chance to be her travelling companion. ‘Lucky duck! Fantastic opportunity!’ That’s what everyone in Stella Street said. ‘Oh boy, chance of a lifetime.’
But during the long flight to Amsterdam, Willa reveals to Henni the real reason for her journey: a terrible family secret stretching back to the Second World War. As Henni makes friends with more and more of Willa’s relatives, she must decide if they should know the truth. And is that the only mystery?
Talking about the original, Honey said she “wanted to write about kids who were open and robust, ingenious, tenacious and funny” and “families [who] are strong and enjoy life. They go through ups and downs but basically they stick together.” And that basically sums up this t=story and the series – they are about characters and situations that our children can relate to, feel-good stories that have all the tension and drama required to keep the reader engaged but which have “a happy ending, not in a Disneyland way, an Australian way.”
I love books that open up other avenues for readers, books that compel them to keep reading beyond the pages and it is SO good to see this one because not only is it likely to entice the readers to seek out those prequels but they’re going to venture into a series that quite possibly their parents read and enjoyed, opening up the possibilities for all sorts of discussions and memory-making. The enduring power of print vs the fleeting influence of the screen!!!