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Favorite Noel Streatfeild Book and other Randomness April 7, 2013

Posted by ccbooks in Debate.

Holiday trips clearly make me and Ana nostalgic. Then again, which would you rather discuss when stuck in a miserable Texas airport–depressing current events or childhood books?

The edition we had as kids.

In contrast to Alcott, a favorite we have in common is Noel Streatfeild, who wrote books about theatrical children in England during World War II. She was a very prolific author, and over the years I’ve collected most of her titles from yard sales and on trips to London. Ana and I got sucked down the rabbit hole of various questions about her books, starting with our favorite titles.

Cecilia: Ballet Shoes, without question. Three contrasting main characters, great theatrical details and the most interesting shows were in that book.

Ana: It’s a difficult question for me. I’m going to go with Dancing Shoes, since it’s the one I re-read the most often, and I identified so completely with Rachel as a child. Also, Hilary is funny.

Cecilia: I think my main problem with Dancing Shoes is that Dulcie and Mrs. Winter are caricatures. One of the things that I love about Ballet Shoes is that there is no ‘bad guy’ or ‘mean girl’ that they have to beat. Although as you say, Hilary is funny. And I do like the discussion about different kinds of dancing and whether ballet is the end all and be all. Which do you think is Streatfeild’s worst book?

Ana's favorite title.

Ana’s favorite title.

Ana: I don’t know. I remember being thoroughly uninterested in Party Shoes, although I couldn’t tell you why. When you get right down to it, I only really remember Ballet ShoesDancing ShoesTheatre Shoes, and Skating Shoes. I know there was another one where the kids moved to America and one of them was in a Hollywood movie of The Secret Garden, but I don’t remember its name. I think it was your book and I never really got the chance to re-read it. I honestly don’t think I have a least favorite. All the books have good points and bad points for me.

Cecilia: I’d say it’s a tie between Party Shoes and the third book in the Gemma trilogy where Gemma falls in love with the guy playing Romeo to her Juliet. Party Shoes never had much purpose beyond describing a fancy outfit and Streatfeild just isn’t good at depicting teen crushes. Her theatrical descriptions and backstage details are far more interesting. Are there are any Streatfeild books that you would say are just too similar?

Ana: Ballet Shoes and Theatre Shoes follow pretty much the same storyline, but then again, they take place in the same school. Still, the pattern is essentially the same, with the only exception being the addition of Miranda in Theatre Shoes.

New, illustrated edition that I bought in the UK.

New, illustrated edition that I bought in the UK.

Cecilia: She’s a pretty big addition though. And I’d say the change from being orphans in Ballet Shoes to being part of a distinguished theatrical clan in Theater Shoes is a pretty huge leap. The Fossil girls in some ways have to work way harder than the Warren family. Wouldn’t you agree?

Ana: Not necessarily. The Warren children still feel incredibly isolated, living in their grandmother’s house. They still identify immensely with their father’s side of the family, rather than their mother’s. And in a way, they are orphans. The money worries are still there, and the Fossil girls never worry very much about being liked or included by the other children at the Academy. We get more details of the Fossils’ routine being difficult (mostly because Streatfield describes the dancing in more detail, since none of the Warrens are dancers apart from Miriam) but I don’t think that necessarily means that the Warren children don’t work as hard.

Original illustrated edition that I found at a flea market in the UK.

Original illustrated edition that I found at a flea market in the UK.

Cecilia: I guess after reading the rest of her books, I see Miranda as a prototype for the ‘mean girl’ who only cares about her own success, which we get with Dulcie, Maurice from Movie Shoes and to a certain extent Lalla from Skating Shoes. The real interest in Theater Shoes I think comes from seeing how the school operates in wartime, with rationing, blackouts and effects of bombing.

Ana: I can see your point about Theatre Shoes. I don’t think Lalla fits into the stereotype at all, though. While she does get jealous at one point during the book, she’s basically a good person, and she doesn’t have any other moments where she is mean or cruel to Harriet. Miranda and Dulcie are both proud and vain, and dislike being around other people–they don’t have any friends. By contrast, Lalla desperately wants a friend.

Cecilia: True. I guess I meant more in the aspect of being taken up with her own success. But even there, it’s really Aunt Claudia who wants Lalla to succeed–she doesn’t care as much about her figures as about being entertaining.

Ana: Yeah, that’s true. I suppose in Skating Shoes, Aunt Claudia is the “bad guy”. It is interesting that we don’t get one in Ballet Shoes.



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