Review Blog

Sep 09 2020

From Stella Street to Amsterdam and everything that happened by Elizabeth Honey

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Allen & Unwin, 2020. ISBN: 9781865084541. 424pp.
(Ages: 12 - 15) Highly recommended. This story is the very welcome return of Henni Octon but this time she leaves Stella Street and accompanies elderly and feisty Willa to Amsterdam. The neighbours of Stella Street have raised funds so that Henni can undertake this important role on their behalf. Willa has not been back to the Netherlands since the end of WW2 and is returning for a family wedding and also to contend with unresolved family issues. After a frightening flight to Dubai Willa behaves strangely and alludes to important secrets. Henni loves bike riding back home and soon buys a bike on which she can escape but also explore Amsterdam. This is the area where Anne Frank hid away in WW2. Henni learns more about Willa's family involvement in hiding Jewish people and she battles with the responsibility of knowing this secret information. At times she feels unwelcome by the family, however she also makes a good friend who introduces her to the world of younger people in the town.
Honey has created an admirable 3D character in Henni who is often wiser than adults and cares about a fairer world. The book serves as Henni's journal and in this way we understand Henni's self-doubts, humorous observations and emotional growth. Also, since Henni (Elizabeth Honey) is a poet and illustrator, there are great sketches, jottings, poems and photos. Emails and text messages bring conversations from family and friends back home in Stella Street. There are very sad poignant scenes and a few amazing coincidences in the plot, but that's fiction! You get to learn a about Amsterdam's cobbled streets, canals, red light district and architecture. You also learn how to pronounce many Dutch words. Readers who enjoyed the Morris Gleitzman Once series or Anne Frank's Diary of a Young Girl, may enjoy this book. It is quite long but a compulsive read. This is suitable for young adult readers because of its more mature emotional themes. Teacher's notes are available.
Jo Marshall

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