Happy New Year everyone! Hope yours was happy and safe. The first book I’m reviewing here in 2016 (is it really 2016 already?) is Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild. You may recognize it from the movie version starring Emma Watson. The book is just as fun and delightful as the movie was.
The novel, written in 1936, centers around the lives of three little girls, all orphans, who were adopted by an eccentric London collector they called Gum, a man they’ve never met. Gum is an explorer and an adventurer, and on his travels, he has always collected things like fossils, until his housekeepers complain that there’s no more room for the junk he sends home. So instead, he starts sending home children he manages to save from dire circumstances.
First there’s Pauline, then there’s Petrova, and then Posy, whose ballerina mother gave her up for adoption with a pair of children’s ballet slippers tucked into her basket. Gum saves them and sends them to his London home, but the girls grow up having never met him, under the guardianship of Gum’s great-niece and her nurse. Everything is fine until the money starts to run out, and Gum is nowhere to be found.
To earn money, Pauline, Petrova, and Posy have to join the Children’s Academy of Dancing and Stage Training, so they can develop skills to make money on the stage. Pauline is a natural at acting, and the small Posy is obsessive with ballet, but Petrova hates the stage and would much rather build cars or model airplanes.
I loved the tone of this book from the very beginning, a heartwarming tale about friendship, adopted family, the relationships between sisters, and the desire these girls had to make a name for themselves. Every year on their birthdays, the three girls would recite a pledge that they would try to get their names in the history books, because they had picked their own surname and wanted it to be important. Isn’t that adorable?
At its heart, Ballet Shoes is a book for children that teaches the value of hard work and the importance of family, and it’s funny, eccentric, and poignant all at once. If you’ve seen the movie, you’ll want to read the book. And if not, you’ll want to read it anyway. 🙂