Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild (1936) comes in at #78 on the Top 100 list but I think it would be much higher if more people had read it. It’s charming and smart and leaves the reader feeling happy and inspired.
What it’s about: Three adopted sisters–Pauline, Petrova and Posy–must learn dancing and acting to support themselves and their adopted family when times get tough.
Age level: Grades 4-6
Best part: So much about this book was awesome, from the girls themselves and their diverse personalities to the boarders at their house who have their own unique things to offer and even the absentee Great Uncle Matthew.
Worst part: The only quibble I had with the book was the stereotyping by hair color — the blonde was also the prettiest and the natural actress, the redhead was saucy and the dancer and the brunette was exotic looking but not particularly pretty and so, of course, she was interested in math and engineering. Why couldn’t the beautiful blonde also be the smart one? Oh well … 1936, I guess.
So, I tried to find a clip to imbed from You’ve Got Mail that has Meg Ryan’s (Kathleen) mention of this and the other “Shoe” books but I couldn’t find a working one. So here’s the dialogue instead (which not only introduces this book and the series it is in but also is a commentary on indie versus chain bookstores) —
WOMAN SHOPPER: Do you have the “Shoe” books?
SALESPERSON: The “Shoe” books? Who’s the author?
WOMAN SHOPPER: I don’t know. My friend told me my daughter has to read the “Shoe” books, so here I am.
KATHLEEN: Noel Streatfeild. Noel Streatfeild wrote Ballet Shoes and Skating Shoes and Theater Shoes and Movie Shoes …
(she starts crying as she tells her)
I’d start with Skating Shoes, it’s my favorite, although Ballet Shoes is completely wonderful.
SALESPERSON: Streatfeild. How do you spell that?
WOMAN SHOPPER: Thank you.
As she walks away … KATHLEEN (to herself): They know nothing, they know absolutely nothing.
This was the introduction to the series for many of us (and a big help in finding this strangely-spelled author), but I still never picked one up until now. Of course I thoroughly regret it and anticipate reading the other Shoe books at some point because the characters were so vivid. (The other books are about different children but I anticipate the same high quality of writing.) The story is lovely and inspirational and yet still funny and light. I can totally see girls being inspired by this book to follow their dreams. I don’t know why I didn’t buy this book for my niece for Christmas but she’ll definitely be getting it next summer for her birthday!
What is your favorite Shoe book?
I’ll be back in January with The Wolves of Willoughby Chase which I am really looking forward to! Z and I are also already reading Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire together and I hope we will be done by the end of January (we just finished the Quidditch World Cup game). It takes a long time when you’re reading it for just 20 minutes a night!