Ballet for Laura (by Linda Blake)

How I wanted to read this book as a child! I owned the sequel (“Laura’s Summer Ballet”) but was convinced that there must have been a previous book. I knew nothing of the author, Linda Blake - it doesn’t appear that she wrote any other books, and there’s no biography that I can find online. Nonetheless, her second book was one of my childhood and teenage favourites.

So I was thrilled when, finally, I discovered ‘Ballet for Laura’ - in good condition - in a charity shop, in the mid-90s. I was in my thirties by then but it didn’t stop me devouring (and thoroughly enjoying) the book. It didn’t come out to Cyprus with us when we moved here ‘temporarily’, but arrived with some freight about nine years ago, when I promptly re-read it. Recently, thinking about recommending it to a friend’s daughter who enjoys ballet stories, I couldn’t resist dipping into it again…

And once more I found myself caught up in a story that’s exciting and - in places - quite moving. Laura, aged twelve, is about to follow her dreams and begin as a pupil at the Marina ballet school. She’s quite shy and very nervous, which makes it all the more surprising that she finds herself getting alone well with Scott, a senior at the school, who has a bad temper and is considered very much the black sheep.

Laura has decided talent; not the brilliance of Noel Streatfeild’s heroines of the same era (for this was written and set in the 1960s) but a determination and dedication to ballet, and a natural grace that attracts the notice of Connie, a wealthy, beautiful and gifted dancer amongst the seniors. Unfortunately Connie’s nature is spiteful and jealous, and she takes a dislike to Laura almost from the start.

It’s a school story with friendships developing, trouble brewing, and a thrilling climax when Laura is selected - almost randomly - for a tiny role onstage, and Connie does everything she can to stop her. Having not read this for nine years, I’d forgotten most of the details (while confident that the outcome would be positive) and felt some of the tension again. Connie is - I hope - caricatured, as is her eminently dislikeable cousin, but Laura and her friends, and the grouchy Scott are all very well portrayed.

Intended, I assume, for the 10-14 age group originally, I think this would appeal to confident readers of about 8-11 today, particularly those who enjoy Noel Streatfeild or similar authors. It will appeal more to girls than boys, although there are boys in the school, and Scott in particular plays a significant part.

Not in print, and hard to find, although Amazon is currently showing it at a good price in the Marketplace.

Review copyright 2014 Sue's Book Reviews

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