Last Friday, I locked myself out of the house. Ben was at the cricket, so I wandered through town waiting for him to walk home. I came across a pop up market that springs into being every Friday during summer – I believe that last week was the first time it had appeared this summer. I wandered around, trying to kill time, and bought a smoothie where I pedalled a bike to power the blender, and browsed (of course) through the pop-up book stall.
There were very few children’s books – I have noticed with the few pop up or mobile book stores I have encountered that they never tend to have many children’s books. However, just as I was poking thought piles, the lady looking after the stall plonked down a stack of children’s books. Sitting at the bottom (I think I recognised the author’s handwriting before anything else) was an Elizabeth Honey book. A book I hadn’t read. A book I didn’t recognise. I was pretty excited. Let me tell you why.
Elizabeth Honey was my saviour when my family was living overseas. Whenever I got homesick for Australia, I would read one of her books. I read ‘Don’t Pat the Wombat’ A LOT, but soon had quite a collection of her books. I simply can’t pick a favourite; I loved them all – 45 & 47 Stella Street and Everything that Happened, Fiddleback, What do you think, Feezal? Remote Man. I have read them all countless times, and loved them. I have a book of her poetry too, Honey Sandwich, and I reckon I could recite some of that too. There is a quirkiness to Elizabeth Honey’s style, a higglety-pigglety-ness. I love her scribbled drawings, her adding to the text with scrawled writing, the way the story jumps back and forth like when real people tell the story. Henni, for example, in 45 & 47 Stella Street and Everything that Happened, realises a few chapters in that she has forgotten to mention she has parents, and has been talking about Danielle without telling the reader she is her sister. Her writing really feels like you are just talking to a friend, or an excitable kid.
Since I started working in bookstores four years ago, the only Elizabeth Honey books I have encountered are her picture books. She seemed to have stopped writing children’s fiction, just picture books.
So, can you imagine my excitement when I picked up this new book, called ‘The Ballad of Cauldron Bay’. A new Elizabeth Honey book! And then I flipped it over to read the back, and got even more excited. It was a follow on to 45 & 47 Stella Street and Everything that Happened and Fiddleback! I was almost jumping on the spot by then. It was like learning that one of your best friends, who lives far away, is coming to visit.
Of course, I bought it. I would have bought it if it were full price, but it was $2, or $5 for three books. Obviously I bought three – I also bought a lovely battered copy of The House at Pooh Corner by A A Milne and The Secret of Platform 13 by Eva Ibbotson, another favourite author of mine and my sister when we were little.
So now I am reading 45 & 47 Stella Street and Everything that Happened, which conveniently (and deservingly) is on the list of 1001 Children’s Books You Must Read Before You Grow Up, and then I will read Fiddleback, and then The Ballad of Cauldron Bay. And then I will probably reread everything else of Elizabeth Honey’s that I have, I love her so.