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 of whom 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 for so long that the the two women who take care of the girls, Garnie and Nana, have to come up with creative ways of putting food on the table, because the money Gum left them is almost gone. The women take in borders, one of whom is a teacher at the Children's Academy of Classical Ballet

The three girls become students at the ballet schoolm 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. Somehow the girls start taking on the responsibility of providing for their family. Thankfully two of the girls love the performing life. Pauline discovers that she loves to act, and Poppy, the baby of the family, has ballet in her blood and she is going to be an extraordinary dancer when she grows up. Petrova dislikes acting and dancing, but she does the best she can because so loves her family and wants to help out as best she can.

It is with great awe that we watch the very young  girls in this story take on responsibilities that they should not have to worry about yet. Some readers might be concerned that too much is placed on their young shoulders, but the truth of the matter is that they prove, again and again, that they have courage, determination and a good work ethic. They may stumble every so often, but on the whole they rise to the occasion and they prevail.

This book originally came out in 1936 and it has a charm that is truly timeless. The colorful characters are really what make this book a joy to read.