Summary of Stella's Starliner
Stella lives in a camper-type trailer (referred to as a Starliner) with her parents. Life is simple but full for them. They do typical things like go to the market, check out books at the library, and read them together. Stella is happy and content until she meets a trio of weasels. They refer to her home as a “tin can” and call her poor. Their words sting Stella’s heart.
Feeling shame and sadness, she keeps the incident to herself. Her mother senses there is something wrong, so she gently coaxes Stella to reveal what occurred. They cuddle together as their little home travels to a new location.
When they arrive at their new destination, Stella meets some new friends. Instead of seeing her little home as a disadvantage, they are fascinated by it. They think she is a “zillionare” because she lives in a silver home. Stella and her new friends explore and play in the Starliner.
I am a fan of Rosemary Well’s characters and stories. Her characters tend to be sweet animals experiencing childhood dilemmas. In Stella’s Starliners, she uses an adorable family of foxes as the main characters. Stella’s friends are cute little bunny rabbits. What child doesn’t love fuzzy foxes and bouncy bunnies? The pictures are animated and active, reflecting the words on the page well, but do little to add to the story content.
The story is relevant and meaningful. Many children have had experiences similar to Stella where they are marginalized and demeaned for something superficial—appearance, clothes, home, socioeconomic class, and so forth. This story can be used to discuss the acceptance of others based on the content of their character rather than their material possesses or outward appearance. In addition, the incident with the weasels can be used to explore how to deal with those who say hurtful words.
The only part of the story that seemed odd to me is that Stella’s father left for the week to go to work (as he always does). However, on the evening Stella reveals the bullying incident, her father is driving them to a new place. She does not realize it though until her mother tells her to look out the window. Her mother states that her father is “flying [them] far away through the night.” An illustration shows them literally flying.
The next page, however, is back in reality with a neat ending. Now don’t get me wrong, I am fine with Stella having a foil experience to that of the weasels to affirm her and end on a positive note. Clearly, in reality children have contrasting experiences depending of the circumstances and people they encounter. The sudden moving to a new location with no explanation and no knowledge comes off as incongruent though. I think even a small child would know the difference between her home sitting still and it driving on the freeway. It would have been better if they went to a park or public place and met some other children.
Other than that little snafu in the narrative, the book is a good read. The characters are endearing. The story teaches children to be accepting of both themselves and others. As a result, I recommend Stella’s Starliner for ages 3-9.