Ballet Shoes (by Noel Streatfeild)

This is probably the best-known of Noel Streatfeild's books, and certainly one of my favourites. It's the story of three baby girls, adopted by the eccentric Great Uncle Matthew (GUM) and left with his niece Sylvia and her old nurse 'Nana'. They live in a vast house, and when GUM does not return from his travels after five years, money becomes very tight so they take in boarders.

The girls are educated at home, and given free places at an academy of dance and drama... and there, their talents emerge in diverse ways. There are many realistic glimpses into the world of children's theatre in the 1930s, including the need for licenses for those of 12-14 who are allowed to do professional work only if medically fit and educationally sound.

The three girls: Pauline, Petrova and Posy, are quite distinct characters, yet all believable (if a little caricatured at times) and delightful in their different ways. Family values are, as always with this author, very important, and moral lessons are demonstrated in low-key but effective ways.

It's supposedly for girls of age 8-14, though I suspect that these days it's more likely to appeal to those of about 7-11, since it's a gentle read about ordinary people with not a great deal of excitement. I've read and enjoyed it many times as an adult too.

Note: as an introduction to this book, you might also like the DVD of a TV version of 'Ballet Shoes', made in 2007.

You can also read my longer review of Ballet Shoes, written after re-reading nearly twelve years later). 

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