Skip to main content

Favourite Authors: Noel Streatfeild

I've decided to start doing a series on my favourite authors, probably focusing more on lesser-known authors, but including some better-known ones as well. I'm not sure how often I'll post these, but I'll try to keep it fairly regular.

By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=32697871
Mary Noel Streatfeild (1895-1986) was an author who wrote a great many children's books (and also some adult books, although I haven't read any of those). Recurring themes in her books include: family (most books focus on a group of siblings or cousins); children who are especially talented, mostly in the performing arts (acting, dancing, or music), although other talents and interests such as sports (swimming, tennis, skating) also appear; dealing with financial difficulties (sometimes in creative ways). The best known of her books is Ballet Shoes, her first children's novel, published in 1936.
 

What I like about her books:
  • Portrayal of family life: her families are mostly fairly realistic (except in terms of the amount of talent possessed); they don't always get on but are mostly loving families still. There is a lack of parents in quite a few of her books (as in many children's books), but the sibling relationships tend to be very well done.
  • Wish fulfilment: many of the children are very talented, and get to dedicate a lot of time to doing what they love, perhaps even making money from it from a young age, and a few become famous. Even if you've never really wanted to be an actor or a dancer, it's easy to fee like you do when you're reading the books.
  • Details of everyday life: I like that she often tells you how various details are organised, how much things cost, and so on. For example, Party Shoes goes into quite a lot of detail on the difficulties of creating costumes for a pageant the children are putting on, when rationing was still in place. It makes the books feel more realistic, in spite of the amount of talent the children possess; and despite this, they still have to work hard to be good at what they do and to overcome various difficulties.
  • Her books cover quite a long time period - from the 1930s to the 1970s; most of her books are set pretty much exactly when she wrote them. So from a historical viewpoint it's interesting to see how things changed over this time; in Ballet Shoes for example we have characters who are quite poor (or consider themselves to be) but still living in a big house with servants; which is certainly not the case in later books. Several books take place during the war and rationing of food and clothes also presents problems in some books. In the later books, the characters travel a lot more, often by plane, film acting becomes more common as opposed to stage acting (although both are there), and the children sometimes attend comprehensive schools (when they aren't at stage schools), rather than just private or grammar schools. And there are lots of little details and attitudes that change over time, that make it quite interesting to read some of her books from different decades.

Some of my favourites of her books are:
(some of these have been published under more than one title)

2251927
 
Ballet Shoes: The best-known of Noel Streatfeild's books and probably the best, this is the story of three orphans who are adopted by Great-Uncle Matthew (Gum). Pauline, Petrova and Posy are very different girls who attend a stage school (not all willingly) and discover their respective talents, performing in plays etc. to help earn money which they are struggling for. Meanwhile hoping for Gum to come back and sort things out. Despite the title, it's more about acting than ballet, although that does feature since Posy, the youngest, is obsessed with it.

Theatre Shoes (Curtain Up!): This is a sort of sequel to Ballet Shoes, set in wartime London. Another trio of siblings are given scholarships by the Fossil sisters to attend the stage school that they went to, giving them the chance to discover their talents (or, perhaps, lack of).

1385474
 
Skating Shoes (White Boots): Harriet is advised to take up ice skating as a form of exercise to help her recover from an illness. To her surprise, she turns out to be very good at it, and makes friends with another girl, Lalla, who is the daughter of two skaters and has been raised to be a star in it. Unusually for a Streatfeild book, Harriet's siblings don't feature much in the story, but there are some good home scenes in it too.

Ballet Shoes for Anna: This is another book about a ballet-obsessed girl. Anna and her two brothers are orphaned by an earthquake in Turkey, and have to go and live with an aunt and uncle in England, who are unsympathetic to Anna's ballet dreams (and to the children in general). Since they won't pay for Anna to have ballet lessons, she and her brothers have to come up with inventive ways to make some.
 
27236113
 
Travelling Shoes (Apple Bough): This is my second favourite of her books. Another family of four children, all named after famous musicians; Sebastian, the second oldest, is a world famous violinist, despite being a child - but since he isn't old enough to be allowed to perform in England (he has to be twelve), he and his parents and siblings travel the world so he can play in lots of other countries. The other three, especially Myra, the eldest, are getting fed up of this and want to settle down somewhere, but their parents are keen to keep the family all together (rather than leaving the others with their grandparents for example). So the book follows Myra's desire to find a home for them, whilst Wolfgang and Ethel (the two youngest) discover talents of their own.

Have you read any of Noel Streatfeild's books? Which ones did you enjoy most?

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

October Books

I haven't done a monthly recap post for a while, but I haven't posted much lately so I thought I'd do a summary of what I've read this month. Firstly, I finally finished Lord of the Rings! I think it's been round about a year, perhaps just over, since I first picked up The Fellowship of the Ring. I tend to be very slow about reading long books - I need to take breaks to read other things in the middle - but I didn't quite expect to take so long to finish. I did enjoy it, and am partly tempted to start over again with FOTR, since it feels like an age since I read that. At any rate, I can now say that I have read it.
I made some progress with Mount TBR this month; I'm still hopelessly behind my goal of 24 books, but I did get a few off: The Return of the King (as mentioned above), Scarlet by Marissa Meyer, and Forged in the Fire by Ann Turnbull. Scarlet was a disappointment - despite having really enjoyed Cinder (last year), I found this a bit of a chore to …

Footnotes: October 2017

Footnotes is a monthly link-up hosted by Ashley and Emily. It's all about sharing quotations. Just in time, I'm joining up with the October prompt, which is: a quotation from a poem. There were quite a few quotations I could have shared this month, but I've chosen a short quote from Charlotte Bronte's poem "Gilbert":
            For words oft give but echo faint             Of thoughts the mind conceives. I've definitely experienced thoughts and feelings that I wasn't able to express in words; sometimes this might be because I don't have the words or don't understand my thoughts well enough, but other times it does seem like language is inadequate. However, one of the joys of collecting quotations is that sometimes you find that others have said things that express your thoughts perfectly, when you weren't able to do so yourself.

Classics Club Spin

It's time for another Classics Club Spin! You can find out about it here. My list:
The Watsons by Jane AustenLorna Doone by R.D. BlackmoreAgnes Grey by Anne BrontëThe Pilgrim's Progress by John BunyanMy Antonia by Willa CatherThe Wisdom of Father Brown by G.K. ChestertonIn the High Valley by Susan CoolidgeA Tale of Two Cities by Charles DickensThe Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan DoyleThe Great Gatsby by F. Scott FitzgeraldThe Life of Charlotte Brontë by Elizabeth GaskellCotillion by Georgette HeyerElizabeth, Captive Princess by Margaret IrwinThe Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonaldFurther Chronicles of Avonlea by L.M. MontgomeryPat of Silver Bush by L.M. MontgomeryHamlet by William ShakespeareThe Painted Garden by Noel StreatfeildLark Rise to Candleford by Flora ThompsonThe Chaplet of Pearls by Charlotte Mary Yonge Hopefully, this will help me to make a bit of progress with my list, of which I've been rather neglectful of late.