REVIEW: Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild

REVIEW: Ballet Shoes by Noel StreatfeildBallet Shoes (Shoes #1) by Noel Streatfeild
Published: Bullseye Books (1936), Paperback, 233pg
Source: Bought
Genres: Classic, Fiction

Pauline, Petrova and Posy are orphans determined to help out their new family by joining the Children's Academy of Dancing and Stage Training. But when they vow to make a name for themselves, they have no idea it's going to be such hard work! They launch themselves into the world of show business, complete with working papers, the glare of the spotlight, and practice, practice, practice! Pauline is destined for the movies. Posy is a born dancer. But practical Petrova finds she'd rather pilot a plane than perform a pirouette. Each girl must find the courage to follow her dream. (from Goodreads)

Ballet and sisters and pre-WWII London! This book is full of things that make my heart go ping, not least of which is the characters and their adorableness. I don’t mean just the kids (though they’re cute enough); the adults are lovely as well, which makes a nice change from books with absent/neglectful parents. And for once the adults aren’t trying to impede the children from having their adventures, and neither do they suck all the fun out of it. True, adventures-in-working are less spectacular than battling monsters or whatnot, but it’s still nice to have adults help instead of hinder, and in a way that feels authentic to both the characters and the story.

I think that Noel Streatfeild is quite possibly the Diana Wynne Jones of non-fantasy children’s fiction. Her books tend to give me the same sort of squishy feelings that DWJ’s does, and she doesn’t even have any epic fantasy-type adventures in her books! (The ones I’ve read, anyway. Which is not nearly as much as I’d like it to be.)

I’ve read Ballet Shoes many, MANY times, and each time I read it I tend to find something new. For instance, this time around I was a little shocked at the realization that these are kids and they’re working. I mean, not just going to ballet class for fun! But actually training for work. And they’re 11! And they do so well at it! They’re selfless and hardworking without falling into that terrible “learn a morality lesson” sort of thing that shows up in some other kids books.

Not that there aren’t lessons to be learned! But they come up very naturally and, again, true to the characters/story. My favorite is the one at the end, about how being a celebrity doesn’t mean you’ll change the world. Being famous is nice, but it won’t necessarily mean you’ll be remembered (or revered)! Kind of a good lesson for today’s world, too, what with people kind of obsessed about being popular for no reason than just to BE popular.

Did you know there’s a whole series of these books? I’ve only read maybe five of them, which is a shame. Ballet Shoes, the first (and best?) book, is a good place to start with the series, though! Especially since some of themes and characters show up in other books– like in Theater Shoes, for instance. So if you’ve never read a Shoes book before, you should probably start with this one. Just fyi.

I definitely recommend Ballet Shoes for anyone who loves classic children’s literature, and also for fans of interwar literature. It’s a very positive book, one that’s sure to make you smile like a fiend when you read it.

Read: August 01-02, 2013

Look! I found this website devoted entirely to Ballet Shoes! It’s pretty neat.

1 thought on “REVIEW: Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild”

  1. >>I think that Noel Streatfeild is quite possibly the Diana Wynne Jones of non-fantasy children’s fiction.

    Ha! Yes! She is! She has that same wonderful way of not sentimentalizing her child characters, but letting them be brave and wonderful too.

    Have you read Skating Shoes and Circus Shoes? Some of the Shoes books I can take or leave, but those two (and this one) are marvelous.

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