Books Your Kid Should Read

"I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library." - Jorge Luis Borges

Blogger Template by Blogcrowds

Ballet Shoes

28 August 2008

Ballet Shoes
by Noel Streatfeild

If the only way you've ever heard of the Shoe books by Noel Streatfeild is from Meg Ryan's mention of them in You've Got Mail, boy have you been missing out. Ballet Shoes, the first of the books, is the story of Pauline, Petrova, and Posy Fossil, three orphans who are found and sent home to London as unusual souvenirs by Matthew Brown, an elderly and eccentric geologist. Pauline is a survivor of a shipwreck, Petrova is from Russia, and Posy arrives with only a pair of ballet shoes (her mother's) in her possession. The three are placed in the care of Matthew's niece, Sylvia, while he goes off on his endless travels. Soon enough the money runs out, and Sylvia must take in boarders and find a way to educate the three girls so they can care for themselves once they are of age. And so they are sent to The Children's Academy of Dancing and Stage Training, where Pauline quickly discovers her talent as an actress, Posy comes into her dancing heritage, and Petrova ... well, Petrova finds her own route. Streatfeild worked in the theatre for many years before becoming a writer, so the rendering of the training regimen, backstage life, and performing arts in general all ring true. This was one of the first books that gave me insight into the seriousness and legitimacy of a life in the arts - the rigor of it, the discipline, and the commitment it takes as well as the magic and joy it can confer. The three central characters are great role models, young women who take charge of their own destinies and are always there for each other despite disparate origins and very different personalities. And the rendition of 1930s London is vivid and memorable - a wonderful way for kids to enter into a different historical era. Many other Shoes books would follow (Theatre Shoes, Dancing Shoes, Party Shoes, Family Shoes, etc.), but I think it's always good to start at the beginning. (The books all have different settings and characters, but the Fossil girls have cameos in several of them.) It was also apparently made into a movie last year starring Emma Watson (Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter films) - which looks pretty good. But read the book first!