Drina's Dancing Year (by Jean Estoril)

Apparently Jean Estoril was a pseudonym for the prolific writer Mabel Esther Allen. I didn't know anything about her, but know I've read at least one of her books and remembered quite liking it. I came across this one in a charity shop recently, and since I like children's books for a little light reading (or reading aloud to small friends) I picked it up.

'Drina's Dancing Year' is in fact the second in the children's series about Drina, a young orphaned ballet dancer who lives with her grandparents in London. As I read, I realised that I had at some point read the first in the series ('Ballet for Drina') although I don't remember when.

In this book, Drina gets her dream, when she is accepted into a full-time ballet school in London. There she makes some good friends and also attracts some negative attention from people who are envious of her talent.  Her mother was a famous ballerina, but Drina is determined not to let anyone know because she wants to know if she can succeed on her own.

There are some fairly typical school story anecdotes, some proud achievements, and a few warnings about the dangers of a life on stage from Drina's grandparents who would really prefer her not to be a dancer. The book feels rather dated, which is not surprising as it was first published in 1958 - but that wasn't a problem. However,  I don't know if today's children would find this interesting. The style and content is appropriate for girls of about 8-11; perhaps it would find favour with those who are keen on ballet.

It's not a bad book. I passed an hour or so reading it, and was interested to see how it would turn out. But it's nothing special. I imagine I could get hooked if I had several in the series - which is quite lengthy - but don't think it's as good as the ballet stories by Noel Streatfeild. It's more on a par with the later ones by Lorna Hill although the characterisation is better.

No longer in print, but fairly widely available second-hand.

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, 7th May 2012

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