Stories from Stella Street by Elizabeth Honey. Published by Allen & Unwin, 23rd November 2016. RRP: $19.99
A long, hot Australian summer holiday needs a long, funny bout of escapist kidlit and to that end, I have for you not one, but three Aussie classic kids’ stories. We received this bright and breezy (and big enough to use as a door stop!) 21st anniversary edition of Elizabeth Honey’s Stella Street stories. We received our copy from Allen & Unwin for review and here’s te blurb from their website:
Elizabeth Honey’s immensely popular 45 + 47 Stella Street and everything that happened turns 21! This special anniversary edition includes three exciting adventures in one big book: 45 + 47 Stella Street, Fiddle-back and The Ballad of Cauldron Bay.
CELEBRATING 21 YEARS OF STELLA STREET!
Meet Henni, the tallest girl in school, and her best friend Zev, with amazing electric hair, and Briquette, little Frank’s dog … and everyone else in Stella Street! Read Henni’s original version of what her gang did when the Phonies moved into their street and started to spoil everything! It’s fast and funny and you never know what’s going to happen next. Henni also tells the story of life-changing events when the Stella Street gang all went bush and camped by a wild river, and then how their perfect old-beach-house holiday in Cauldron Bay nearly ended in disaster.
Three hair-raising adventures in one chunky book!
Elizabeth Honey writes with the invigorating energy of a salty wind off the sea that wakes you up and makes you see the world afresh. Warm-hearted, funny, touching and wise, the Stella Street stories are about growing up and living life to the full.
Now, I can’t be sure whether or not I actually read these stories as a youngster – I’ve checked the dates and I would have been a little outside the target audience, but nonetheless, I did feel a tickle of familiarity as I meandered through the first book in this collection: 45 + 47 Stella Street and Everything That Happened. This familiarity could be because I (a) did actually read this as a youngster but have forgotten or (b) it is so typical of its genre and target age for Australian books of the period that I feel like I know it even though I haven’t read it.
The first book in the collection was a delight to read. Hanni has an appropriately conversational style for a young girl of the early nineties, bashing around the neighbourhood with her mates and prevailing upon God to deal out justice to the Phonies next door. In the end of course, it’s Hanni and her gang – Zav, Frank and Danielle – who have to bring about justice against a pair of the worst kind of neighbours: rich, pompous and ready to complain at the drop of a hat.
One of the things I enjoyed about reading this is the lack of technology in the lives of the characters, both child and adult. The Phonies are involved in a bit of a shady practice (I shan’t spoil it for you!) that nowadays would certainly require access to multiple devices, yet in this delightfully innocent tome the skulduggery is all paper-based. Similarly, Hanni is writing a book – with a pencil and paper to begin with, and then a typewriter! I wonder whether contemporary readers of what is now historical fiction would notice this in the text and what they might make of it.
The pace of the story is laconic, as indeed most Aussie stories should be, punctuated with flurries of activity. Stella Street itself is so delightfully rendered by the author that it is the kind of street anyone would give their eye-teeth to live in. Filled with friendly neighbours (barring the Phonies, of course) and kids that band together to make their own fun, it’s the kind of place that forms the dream of a perfect childhood.
I only got through the first book in the collection before this review. I do intend to read the others – Fiddleback and The Ballad of Cauldron Bay – if only because Hanni is such an engaging voice. If you enjoy a good Aussie yarn or would love to introduce your mini-fleshlings to the kind of life kids might have had before the internet was in every pocket, Stories from Stella Street would be a fantastic place to start.
Until next time,