Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Ballet Shoes

Ballet Shoes

Noel Streatfield
Illustrator:   Diane Goode 
For ages 9 to 12
Random House, 1993   ISBN: 0679847596

Some people collect stamps, and some collect dolls. Great-Uncle Matthew (otherwise known as Gum) collects fossils. He also, quite by accident, collects three baby girls, two who are orphaned, and one who is unwanted. After bringing the babies to his home, Great-Uncle Matthew heads off on a fossil hunting expedition and he is not see again for years. In fact, he is away so long that the three girls and their family have to come up with creative ways of putting food on the table, because the money Gum left them is almost gone.

With very realistic and likeable characters, Noel Streatfeild has created a story that pulls us into a time and place very different from our own, one where dreams can come true and where mistakes are forgiven. The three “Fossil” girls in this story find themselves attending a special school where they are trained to become dancers and actresses, and it isn’t very long before the two older girls are on the stage, performing at the tender age of twelve.

It is with great awe that we watch these very young girls take on the responsibility of providing for their family, though we find ourselves wondering if it is really fair to the girls in the first place. Should they have to be working for a living when they are so young? What helps us overcome this concern somewhat, is the joy two of the girls get from their work at the school. Pauline discovers that she loves to act, and Poppy, the baby of the family, has ballet in her blood and she is certainly going to be an extraordinary dancer when she grows up. As we read about the Fossil sisters, we learn how much work is required to be a dancer and a performer, how many hours have to be spent in practice and rehearsal.

This is certainly one of those timeless stories that will delight ballet fans for years to come.