Little Stars: A Hetty Feather Mystery

Written by Jacqueline Wilson
Review by Marion Rose

I’d read the first Hetty Feather adventure some time ago and was curious to see how this foundling child had developed by the fourth book. Now fourteen, still small and spirited, she was instantly recognizable, as were various other characters that re-appear in new phases of their lives – no small tribute to this author’s writing skills.

Set in the late 1800s, the ‘little stars’ are Hetty and her younger gymnast friend, Diamond. We find them sleeping in a doorway, having run away from the circus. It isn’t long before the resourceful Hetty finds them a home with a gown-maker and blags their way in to a performance spot in a music hall. Both settings provide rich material for Jacqueline Wilson whose knack of choosing just the right descriptive detail to charm her audience is as evident in her historical books as elsewhere. Oyster patties and rose cream meringues spring to mind, as do the dancing girls ‘in a line like paper dolls’ with their red costumes and white kid boots.

At the Music Hall, the girls navigate a grown-up world that is both seamy and exhilarating. Hetty, for instance, faces the lecherous advances of a man in a position of power over her – a timeless theme, which is handled here convincingly and with care. Through this and other events we share Hetty’s journey towards maturity as she develops her acting talent, draws friends and family around her and experiences romance.

This book does not pull at the heartstrings quite like the original story, but it explores some absorbing themes, such as moving on from the emotional ties of first love. Any necessary back-story is skillfully threaded through, so this book should be relished equally by readers of nine plus who already know the series – and by those who do not.