Today I am catching up on a review of a book I finished several weeks ago: Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild. I picked up this book because it is referenced in You’ve Got Mail which may be my favorite movie ever (definitely top 5). Remember the part where Kathleen is sitting in the Fox Books Superstore and helps the lady find the “shoe books”? This is the first one! I was abnormally excited about finding this at the library.
Fun fact: first published in 1936, Ballet Shoes is the first of a group of books with “shoes” in the title. But they are not a series.
- It took me a bit to get into. But once I did, it was a quick read. It is absolutely darling!
- I’m into reading children’s literature this year, as I’ve mentioned before. I love this book because of the work ethic, the strong values, and the positive message.
- There are a whole cast of delightful supporting characters in this novel. I enjoyed Sylvia’s innocent kindness, Nana’s industry and humor, and the literary love of the two doctors that board with the family.
Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild tells the story of the Fossils, three girls determined to “Goodreads summarizes, “Pauline, Petrova and Posy are orphans determined to help out their new family by joining the Children’s Academy of Dancing and Stage Training. But when they vow to make a name for themselves, they have no idea it’s going to be such hard work! They launch themselves into the world of show business, complete with working papers, the glare of the spotlight, and practice, practice, practice! Pauline is destined for the movies. Posy is a born dancer. But practical Petrova finds she’d rather pilot a plane than perform a pirouette. Each girl must find the courage to follow her dream.”
This is a simple, children’s story. The characters are ordinary and their story is rather ordinary as well. In fact, if you’re not looking for this kind of novel, you’ll probably find it rather boring. But I just found it simple and sweet. The three girls work hard to achieve their goals–performing on stage to help support their adopted family. And it’s an enjoyable, light read that I think Kathleen Kelly fans will enjoy.
I love the setting in London. It is my favorite city in the world. The story takes place throughout the city in the family home, the dancing academy, and various theaters in London. I loved the references to places I have been and remembering some of my favorite plays and musicals I saw in London.
“We three fossils vow to try and put our name in history books because it’s our very own and nobody can say it’s because of our grandfathers.”
I love the three main characters and how they learn and gain character and kindness as they grow up. I enjoyed reading about their dancing and acting and the plays they were in. These girls are not perfect. They are proud, haughty, rude, and conceited at times. But I appreciated that they overcome their weaknesses in various situations through the book. For example, Pauline gets the lead role of Alice in Alice in Wonderland but the fame goes right to her head and she tries to defy the rules and her director. He decides to have her understudy perform instead of her the next night. Pauline is devastated but learns the importance and value of humility. This is just one example of how the girls mature and grow. Another favorite moment is when the literature doctor talks about books:
“Books are very ornamental things to have about. . . .
“Do you think Peter Rabbit good reading? I would have thought a person who taught literature was two grand for it.”
“Not a bit–very old friend of mine.”
Ballet Shoes, page 29
What I love most about this book is what it teaches children. It focuses on the value of hard work and supporting your family. The girls want to get acting licenses to support their family, not to be famous. Petrova doesn’t even like acting or singing but she still works to get a license because she wants to help her family. It’s about following your dreams, but also being a good person. Also, it shows us a simpler time when people were genuine, kind, and aware of each other. The way the boarders and the family interact and help each other is neat. The doctors tutor the children on math and literature. Petrova works in the garage of another. And still another is the connection to the dance academy that starts the whole story. It gives me hope in humanity to read stories (albeit fiction) like this one.
A few favorite morals taught in the book:
“You can always learn. Always, always, always.”
“Nobody was irreplaceable.”
“It was all very well to be ambitious, but ambition should not to kill the nice qualities in you.”
Ballet Shoes, pages 105, 139, & 213
This is a shorter review but it is also a short book. And because of it’s simplicity and light tone, I don’t think there’s a lot of depth to discuss. But an enjoyable book nonetheless. And I want to watch You’ve Got Mail again. These are definitely books I want my kids to read someday. Also, I want to read the further books in the series as well! Perhaps in 2018.
Have you read any books because of a film reference?
Any other You’ve Got Mail fans out there?