12/11/2005

Ballet Shoes for Anna

I like dipping into children's books from time to time, to contrast with longer or deeper adult fiction, or just for a couple of hours of light relaxation. One of my favourite children's authors is Noel Streatfeild. She's probably best known for her book 'Ballet Shoes', but wrote a large number of other books revolving around children, many of them gifted in some way artistically.

This particular book is about three children - Francesco, Gussie and Anna - who lived a travelling life in Eastern countries with their artist father and Polish mother. Their grandfather was a renowned ballet master in Russia, living in Turkey at the start of the story, and convinced that Anna (aged eight) had the talent to be a professional ballet danccer.

Disaster strikes within a couple of chapters, and the three children are taken to England to live with The Uncle, who disapproves of dancing. The book revolves around their gradual adaptation to British life, to their culture clashes and new friends, and also Anna's persistence in needing to find ballet classes and a teacher who will take her seriously.

As ever with this author's work, the children are delightful - a mixture of good and bad, responsible and irresponsible - and the adults rather caricatured. But that's not a bad thing in a book intended for this agegroup. The story moves along rapidly and I enjoyed it very much. I first read it in January 1988 apparently, not when I was a child, so I had forgotten most of it when I re-read it yesterday and today.

I had noted in the front of the book that it had an abrupt ending, and I found this to be true... it's really my only criticism of the book. There are some dramatic events in the last couple of chapters, then suddenly all problems are solved in a 'deus ex machina' way in about two pages. It didn't feel as if it fit with the rest of the book.

But other than that, it's excellent - and a little more thought-provoking than others by this author.

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