Saturday, January 09, 2010

Does anyone read "Shoe" books anymore?

Watching the movie, Ballet Shoes was a lovely experience. I thought it captured the spirit of the book in every way. Emma Watson, Yasmin Paige, and Lucy Boynton play the Fossil sisters. Emilia Fox (honestly, there seems to be a member off the extended Fox acting family in everything I watch these days) was lovely and Marc Warren gives a low key performance which is miles away from his character, Danny Blue, in Hustle.

Such a well done movie and it made me wonder, do children read Noel Streatfeild's books anymore?

Lookin back, I would like to think I was one of those bright, precocious youngsters who read before she could walk. Alas, this was not the case. I recall, quite vividly, being sorted into the "buzzards" reading group in first grade, not the "blue birds." Things improved when they discovered I needed glasses but I was not an avid reader until fourth grade.

That year, I was at a new school, in a new country. The school library was tiny but it had ONE thing I had never encountered before, a librarian type person who talked to me. That library lady ran a mini-book club out of a tiny closet in the school. She had Puffins and Penguins and I could buy books.

My problem was, I had no idea what to read. I can remember staring at the shelf, utterly clueless, so she handed me Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild.

I loved that book. In the months that followed, I acquired many more of the "shoe stories." She would make it a point to greet me and show m new books that she thought I would enjoy. I always followed her suggestions.

I read White Boots aka Skating Shoes which I loved because I was learning to skate. I think White Boots may have been my favorite book. Two girls, Lalla and Harriet, one rich, one poor, share training time at an ice rink. Lalla is being groomed for skating stardom, Harriet is there to strengthen her leg muscles after an illness.

The Painted Garden, aka Movie Shoes was fun because of the appearance of Pauline Fossil from Ballet Shoes, who has become a Hollywood movie star in the story. An unpleasant and difficult middle child named Jane, lands the lead in the film version of Secret Garden while her family is staying in California.

In Here Comes the Circus aka Circus Shoes, brother and sister, Peter and Santa, join their Uncle Gus, who works for a circus. They learn tumbling and appear in the circus performances.

Streatfeild's other books never caught my imagination the way these four did. Maybe my time of unconscious delight had already passed when I encountered them.

In these stories the characters are from loving families of modest means and usually under some kind of emotional or financial distress. The characters are thrust on stage or onto the ice or into the circus ring where they learn to excel or at least withstand the experience in some way. All the books celebrate the value of hard work and hours of practice.

Today, Eva Ibbotson's novels evoke a similar happy reading hum in me. The shoe books, with their poor but genteel families must seem pretty tame stuff to readers today who love the quick cut action of Percy Jackson or the sparkle of the Twilight books. I'm trying to recall if anyone I know has read them recently.

Those two years abroad made me a life long reader (and saddled me with a life long spelling disability as I easily drop in the British spellings for"practising," "flavour," and "colour" when I write.)

I also think of that librarian, whose name I do not recall, when I walk the shelves with kids and pull books off the shelves and ask, "how about this one?


Jen Robinson said...

I loved the Shoe books as a kid, Camille. I thought that Ballet Shoes was especially magical - I can still picture the exact edition that I read (I think it was a library copy that I re-read). But I must confess that I haven't re-read any of the books in years. I'm a little afraid that the magic won't hold up, I guess.

But I did enjoy the recent Ballet Shoes movie, too.

Anonymous said...

My girls would have none of the Shoe books. Nor the Little House books. Nor Anne and her gables. Nor Frances Hodgson Burnett. I tried, but failed, to persuade them to give them a go.

Sherry said...

My daughters love Ballet Shoes and Theatre Shoes in particular and have read some of the others and enjoyed them, too. Of course, they always think it's lovely when the bookstore owner in the movie You've Got Mail points a customer to Noel Streatfield's "Shoes books."

Camille said...

I have not re-read these as a grown up either, Jen, for the same reason.

Kelly, I think one out of my three girls read Ballet Shoes but not the others. I daresay, my yellowed copies did not entice them.

Ah yes, Sherry, I LOVED that moment in You've Got Mail too. It was wonderful.

Ladytink_534 said...

I've read Ballet Shoes and Theater Shoes but those are the only ones.

Entling No. 1 said...

I read Ballet Shoes and Skating Shoes, but I preferred the Jill books (Jill's Gymkhana, etcc.) by Ruby Ferguson.

Brimful Curiosities said...

Each time I see a Noel Streatfeild book I'm reminded of the movie, "You've Got Mail" with Meg Ryan. Wonder how many people discovered the books through that recommendation in the movie?

jama said...

Thanks for this post! Love the Shoe books still. :)

Lissa said...

I didn't discover the Shoes books until I was an adult. My boss at Random House championed them and brought them back into print. We actually had to type the text into a computer by hand! I got paid as a freelancer to do that job after working hours. We were newlyweds and the extra income was very welcome!

I typed Theater Shoes and I think Ballet Shoes too, or maybe it was Dancing Shoes. They were a joy to type (and I learned a lot about writing in the process--like who was it, Hunter S. Thompson I think, typing out Hemingway novels to learn the craft).

My girls have read those paperback editions to shreds. We need new copies!

Noël De Vries said...

Another devotee (of Streatfield, hello, we share a name, and You've Got Mail, too)... but the last time I checked out a shoe book to a patron? Cannot recall. *weeps*

Elaine said...

I loved these books as a child and always wanted to be Pauline Fossil and go off to Hollywood and make movies! I still have a 1951 edition of White Boots with the original illustrations that I loved as a child.

Also Party Frock which seems to have almost vanished now. Noel S also wrote adult books though very few of them are obtainable as apparently the warehouse where all her books were stored was bombed in the war so if you stumble upon any grab them. Persephone books reprinted Saplings several years go - excellent read - and I have Mothering Sunday and Silen Speaker, two adult titles I managed to find fairly recently waiting my attention.

What I really want to do now though is to get hold of Ballet Shoes with the illustrations that I remember as a child

Camille said...

That is so interesting about the warehouse. I also have very, very distinct memories of the illustrations in my copy of White Boots. Now that you mention it, I can see the book Party Frock on the library shelf in my memory.

Kelsey said...

Ballet Shoes is one of my most favorite books ever. I still have the tattered copy that my godmother had given me for Christmas when I was 8. It is held together with a rubber band and it is the first book I remember putting my name in. Can't wait for my daughter to be old enough!

I loved the recent movie, too - despite the fact that it seemed to leave out lots of the details...