I don't know how I missed this one-- I read most of the shoes books when I was a kid, and have reviewed a couple here before. If you missed them too, they are all about kids who either want careers (mostly in the arts) or are just involved in arts. They have been out of print in the USA off and on, maybe for being old-fashioned, but seem to be coming back into print now, at least for a while. The characterization, energy, sense of humor, and realistic depiction of what it feels like to be very young and passionate about a technically demanding art or sport make them hold up well, at least to me.

Ballet Shoes is the most famous one, with the three adopted sisters who vow to get their name in the history books. Ballet dancer Posy was clearly Streatfeild's favorite, but aspiring pilot Petrova was mine.

Skating Shoes was one of my favorites, and I have a review of it tagged by author. I also really liked the movie-making one for its characters and glimpse of early Hollywood, Movie Shoes (The Painted Garden in the UK.)

There's also Tennis Shoes, Theater Shoes, Party Shoes (Oxford Children's Classics), and non-shoe books.

In Dancing Shoes, when two sisters are orphaned and taken in by their aunt –who happens to run a dance company called Mrs. Wilson’s Little Wonders – Rachel is miserable: she hates dancing, she’s convinced that the Little Wonder dancing will ruin her talented sister Hilary for the ballet career she thinks their mother wanted her to have, and Hilary loves being a Little Wonder as much as Rachel hates it. Rachel drags herself through tap lessons and schemes to get Hilary back on track for her future as a ballerina.

Against a very funny skewering of a type of troupe – and stage mother -- that Streatfeild was clearly all too familiar with, Rachel’s angst is treated seriously. The conclusion involves an unlikely and spectacular big break, but the quieter resolution to Rachel’s dilemma regarding Hilary’s future is realistic and emotionally satisfying.
I don't know how I missed this one-- I read most of the shoes books when I was a kid, and have reviewed a couple here before. If you missed them too, they are all about kids who either want careers (mostly in the arts) or are just involved in arts. They have been out of print in the USA off and on, maybe for being old-fashioned, but seem to be coming back into print now, at least for a while. The characterization, energy, sense of humor, and realistic depiction of what it feels like to be very young and passionate about a technically demanding art or sport make them hold up well, at least to me.

Ballet Shoes is the most famous one, with the three adopted sisters who vow to get their name in the history books. Ballet dancer Posy was clearly Streatfeild's favorite, but aspiring pilot Petrova was mine.

Skating Shoes was one of my favorites, and I have a review of it tagged by author. I also really liked the movie-making one for its characters and glimpse of early Hollywood, Movie Shoes (The Painted Garden in the UK.)

There's also Tennis Shoes, Theater Shoes, Party Shoes (Oxford Children's Classics), and non-shoe books.

In Dancing Shoes, when two sisters are orphaned and taken in by their aunt –who happens to run a dance company called Mrs. Wilson’s Little Wonders – Rachel is miserable: she hates dancing, she’s convinced that the Little Wonder dancing will ruin her talented sister Hilary for the ballet career she thinks their mother wanted her to have, and Hilary loves being a Little Wonder as much as Rachel hates it. Rachel drags herself through tap lessons and schemes to get Hilary back on track for her future as a ballerina.

Against a very funny skewering of a type of troupe – and stage mother -- that Streatfeild was clearly all too familiar with, Rachel’s angst is treated seriously. The conclusion involves an unlikely and spectacular big break, but the quieter resolution to Rachel’s dilemma regarding Hilary’s future is realistic and emotionally satisfying.
In the last couple nights, I have dreamed of being invaded by clowns, that [livejournal.com profile] telophase was dying, that I had absent-mindedly showed up for physical therapy naked, and that I was falling down a cliff (at great length, because I kept grabbing tree roots that would sloooowly snap, sending me plummeting until I grabbed the next tree root) and it was all my fault for taking a short cut.

I think I am anxious about some upcoming submissions.

The last dream reminds me of the lifechanging accidents suffered by kids in What Katy Did, Emily of New Moon, one of the Malory Towers books where a girl is warned not to go swimming and she does and the current bangs her against the rocks, and some Isabelle Hoffman book where a girl climbs a cliff and falls into the ocean, and a dog that's a drunk and lonely old man's sole companion swims out to save her and apparently drowns, leaving her to suffer agonies of guilt until it reappears the next day. After they end up paralyzed or noticed by creepy old men or the dog drowns or whatever, they always get lectured on how it was all their fault. Insult to injury!

What strikes me about many of these books is that in many cases, the activity is not obviously dangerous or has never been dangerous before-- going swinging in What Katy Did; swimming in the school pool in the Malory Towers book-- but has become dangerous because of some factor which the adult knows about-- a staple holding the swing to the roof broke; currents are dangerous in this time of year-- but does not tell the girl about, because children shouldn't need to know why, but ought to blindly obey anything an adult tells them for any reason. Then when they go swinging or swimming and end up severely injured, they are lectured on obedience.

I note a couple things about these stories:

1. These are almost all books written before 1960. Cautionary tales for children and teenagers certainly do exist after that time, but generally in those, adults do tell the kids why they shouldn't do things, but the kids go ahead and do them anyway. These more modern books tend to involve particular social issues, like drunk driving, joining gangs, doing drugs, and so forth, rather than random and unique accidents.

I am guessing that there was a major change in ideas about parenting and adult-child relationships during the sixties, in which people realized that perhaps blind obedience was not that great, and that it's OK for children to ask why, and OK for adults to tell them.

2. There is a related idea which I have come across much more occasionally, but which annoyed me recently in the Noel Streatfeild novels The Growing Summer and The Circus is Coming. In both of these, children who have led a sheltered life are suddenly thrown into a society in which children are expected to be far more independent. In both books, the children are mocked and criticized by adults for not knowing how to do things which no one ever taught them, but when they ask adults to teach them, the adults mock and criticize them for that and tell them they are supposed to figure things out on their own without asking for help. When they figure it out wrong, they're mocked and critized; when they get it right, the adults are nice.

I find that attitude really despicable, and am glad that it seems to have died out to the extent that no one writes books any more where it's presented as normal and good.

But between attitudes 1 and 2, it seems like the idea is that it's bad for adults to explain anything to children, but children are supposed to both obey adults to the letter, and also, being seen but not heard, carefully watch what others are doing and learn to imitate it without ever actually being taught. I am clearly the model of a modern person, because that seems like a dynamic perfectly designed to foster mindless conformity and child abuse.

3. These pre-1960s stories only seems to happen to girls. Can anyone think of a similar story involving a boy? I find it significant that the girls are often punished for doing physical, unfeminine activities like swinging high and climbing cliffs, and that their punishment is the loss of their physical abilities. There's a great statement of ideas about what girls should and should not do, and what happens to them if they disobey.
In the last couple nights, I have dreamed of being invaded by clowns, that [livejournal.com profile] telophase was dying, that I had absent-mindedly showed up for physical therapy naked, and that I was falling down a cliff (at great length, because I kept grabbing tree roots that would sloooowly snap, sending me plummeting until I grabbed the next tree root) and it was all my fault for taking a short cut.

I think I am anxious about some upcoming submissions.

The last dream reminds me of the lifechanging accidents suffered by kids in What Katy Did, Emily of New Moon, one of the Malory Towers books where a girl is warned not to go swimming and she does and the current bangs her against the rocks, and some Isabelle Hoffman book where a girl climbs a cliff and falls into the ocean, and a dog that's a drunk and lonely old man's sole companion swims out to save her and apparently drowns, leaving her to suffer agonies of guilt until it reappears the next day. After they end up paralyzed or noticed by creepy old men or the dog drowns or whatever, they always get lectured on how it was all their fault. Insult to injury!

What strikes me about many of these books is that in many cases, the activity is not obviously dangerous or has never been dangerous before-- going swinging in What Katy Did; swimming in the school pool in the Malory Towers book-- but has become dangerous because of some factor which the adult knows about-- a staple holding the swing to the roof broke; currents are dangerous in this time of year-- but does not tell the girl about, because children shouldn't need to know why, but ought to blindly obey anything an adult tells them for any reason. Then when they go swinging or swimming and end up severely injured, they are lectured on obedience.

I note a couple things about these stories:

1. These are almost all books written before 1960. Cautionary tales for children and teenagers certainly do exist after that time, but generally in those, adults do tell the kids why they shouldn't do things, but the kids go ahead and do them anyway. These more modern books tend to involve particular social issues, like drunk driving, joining gangs, doing drugs, and so forth, rather than random and unique accidents.

I am guessing that there was a major change in ideas about parenting and adult-child relationships during the sixties, in which people realized that perhaps blind obedience was not that great, and that it's OK for children to ask why, and OK for adults to tell them.

2. There is a related idea which I have come across much more occasionally, but which annoyed me recently in the Noel Streatfeild novels The Growing Summer and The Circus is Coming. In both of these, children who have led a sheltered life are suddenly thrown into a society in which children are expected to be far more independent. In both books, the children are mocked and criticized by adults for not knowing how to do things which no one ever taught them, but when they ask adults to teach them, the adults mock and criticize them for that and tell them they are supposed to figure things out on their own without asking for help. When they figure it out wrong, they're mocked and critized; when they get it right, the adults are nice.

I find that attitude really despicable, and am glad that it seems to have died out to the extent that no one writes books any more where it's presented as normal and good.

But between attitudes 1 and 2, it seems like the idea is that it's bad for adults to explain anything to children, but children are supposed to both obey adults to the letter, and also, being seen but not heard, carefully watch what others are doing and learn to imitate it without ever actually being taught. I am clearly the model of a modern person, because that seems like a dynamic perfectly designed to foster mindless conformity and child abuse.

3. These pre-1960s stories only seems to happen to girls. Can anyone think of a similar story involving a boy? I find it significant that the girls are often punished for doing physical, unfeminine activities like swinging high and climbing cliffs, and that their punishment is the loss of their physical abilities. There's a great statement of ideas about what girls should and should not do, and what happens to them if they disobey.
Lalla, a spoiled rich orphan who's an ice skating prodigy with a stage aunt from hell befriends Harriet, a poor girl who's allowed on the rink as a charity case because her doctor suggested skating as physical therapy after a long illness left her wobbly and weak. Over the course of the book, their lives begin to merge and their roles slowly reverse.

This is one of my favorites of Streatfeild's books that I've read so far, with the other being The Painted Garden aka Movie Shoes. The financial mess Harriet's family's in-- their general store is entirely stocked with whatever random and ill-chosen food is grown, hunted, or collected by a uncle who eats the best of what he gets and sends them the remainders-- is both awful and hilarious, and Harriet's parents and siblings are distinct and fun characters. But the heart of the story is the difficult friendship between Harriet and Lalla, who genuinely care for each other but have strains put on their friendship by competition and disapproving adults. It's also a great portrayal of the pressure of competitive sports, and the difference between following your personal dreams and having a dream imposed on you by someone else.

Out of print, but worth checking out from the library or doing a search for.
Lalla, a spoiled rich orphan who's an ice skating prodigy with a stage aunt from hell befriends Harriet, a poor girl who's allowed on the rink as a charity case because her doctor suggested skating as physical therapy after a long illness left her wobbly and weak. Over the course of the book, their lives begin to merge and their roles slowly reverse.

This is one of my favorites of Streatfeild's books that I've read so far, with the other being The Painted Garden aka Movie Shoes. The financial mess Harriet's family's in-- their general store is entirely stocked with whatever random and ill-chosen food is grown, hunted, or collected by a uncle who eats the best of what he gets and sends them the remainders-- is both awful and hilarious, and Harriet's parents and siblings are distinct and fun characters. But the heart of the story is the difficult friendship between Harriet and Lalla, who genuinely care for each other but have strains put on their friendship by competition and disapproving adults. It's also a great portrayal of the pressure of competitive sports, and the difference between following your personal dreams and having a dream imposed on you by someone else.

Out of print, but worth checking out from the library or doing a search for.
The House of Arden (New York Review Children's Collection), by E. Nesbit. Now that I've read this, its sequel, Harding's Luck, is probably the only E. Nesbit book I haven't read. Two kids, Edred and his older and rather wiser sister Elfrida, inherit a decrepit castle and its guardian Mouldiwarp, a talking white mole who commands all white things, like daisies and doves, and can send the kids back in time to try to find the hidden treasure with which they can rebuild the castle and fix the tumbledown homes of the people living on its lands. (Nesbit was a Fabian socialist, and liked to sneak in messages about social justice and helping out poor people into her books.) The book is charming, frequently funny (if Edred and Elfrida squabble, they can't travel in time for the next three days, and their enforced attempts to get along are quite amusing), and the Mouldiwarp's method of time travel produces some gorgeous images, such as when daisies begin marching in formation to create a clock face upon the grass.

Witch, by Barbara Michaels. A woman buys a house in the woods near a teeny tiny and very rural Southern town, and soon finds that not only do the locals believe it's haunted by the ghost of a Spanish witch, but they soon think she's a witch too. Bring out the torches and pitchforks! A fun suspense novel with twists that I found fairly predictable, but are enjoyable nevertheless. Southern readers may be annoyed at her portrayal of the town as borderline-medieval, but since I lived in a rural town with a similar mindset that happened to be in India, I took it more as a commentary on insular rural towns in general than at the south in particular.

Straydog, by Kathe Koja. Borrowed from [livejournal.com profile] coffee_and_ink's shelves-- she has a nice review of it in her memories that made me pick it up. A slim YA novel about a teenage girl who works at an animal shelter and becomes obsessed with a feral collie, whom she names Grrrl, becomes determined to save from euthanasia, and identifies with more than is healthy. With that premise, you just know it won't work out well. It's very well-written, and it made me cry in Starbucks. So far I've liked all three of Koja's YA novels (Buddha Boy and Blue Mirror) even though they're all pretty similar: intense, bordering on stream of consciousness first person narratives about teenage artists who have an encounter with someone who teaches them about trust or love or art and changes their life for the better, but in the very YA-happy ending mode where the protagonists never win the contest or save the dog or get the guy or whatever it was that they wanted initially-- and yet in the midst of their miserable life with their alcoholic mother or whatever, there is that little ray of inner hope that says they will survive.

The Growing Season, by Noel Streatfield. Four English kids go to stay with their eccentric Irish Great-Aunt Dymphna when their parents are unexpectedly called away on an emergency. Aunt Dymphna recites poetry in response to all questions and expects the kids to totally fend for themselves. The oldest girl, Penny, who is twelve, gets stuck doing all the cooking and cleaning while the oldest boy, who is thirteen, wanders around with the youngest two buying food and trying to catch shrimp. Toward the very end Aunt Dymphna suggests that Penny didn't have to take on all the work herself, but too little, too late. Aunt Dymphna annoyed the hell out of me, and so did every other adult in the book. The kids had never had to take care of themselves before, and all any adult did was give them vague suggestions, then criticize them for doing things wrong and complaining about not being taken care of. They're kids! They're used to being taken care of! Usually I like the genre of kids learning new skills in a new environment, but this one rubbed me the wrong way by being too realistic about how hard it would be, but by then seeming to take the adults' side and claiming it was actually a great learning experience.
The House of Arden, by E. Nesbit. Now that I've read this, its sequel, Harding's Luck, is probably the only E. Nesbit book I haven't read. Two kids, Edred and his older and rather wiser sister Elfrida, inherit a decrepit castle and its guardian Mouldiwarp, a talking white mole who commands all white things, like daisies and doves, and can send the kids back in time to try to find the hidden treasure with which they can rebuild the castle and fix the tumbledown homes of the people living on its lands. (Nesbit was a Fabian socialist, and liked to sneak in messages about social justice and helping out poor people into her books.) The book is charming, frequently funny (if Edred and Elfrida squabble, they can't travel in time for the next three days, and their enforced attempts to get along are quite amusing), and the Mouldiwarp's method of time travel produces some gorgeous images, such as when daisies begin marching in formation to create a clock face upon the grass.

Witch, by Barbara Michaels. A woman buys a house in the woods near a teeny tiny and very rural Southern town, and soon finds that not only do the locals believe it's haunted by the ghost of a Spanish witch, but they soon think she's a witch too. Bring out the torches and pitchforks! A fun suspense novel with twists that I found fairly predictable, but are enjoyable nevertheless. Southern readers may be annoyed at her portrayal of the town as borderline-medieval, but since I lived in a rural town with a similar mindset that happened to be in India, I took it more as a commentary on insular rural towns in general than at the south in particular.

Straydog, by Kathe Koja. Borrowed from [livejournal.com profile] coffee_and_ink's shelves-- she has a nice review of it in her memories that made me pick it up. A slim YA novel about a teenage girl who works at an animal shelter and becomes obsessed with a feral collie, whom she names Grrrl, becomes determined to save from euthanasia, and identifies with more than is healthy. With that premise, you just know it won't work out well. It's very well-written, and it made me cry in Starbucks. So far I've liked all three of Koja's YA novels (Buddha Boy and Blue Mirror) even though they're all pretty similar: intense, bordering on stream of consciousness first person narratives about teenage artists who have an encounter with someone who teaches them about trust or love or art and changes their life for the better, but in the very YA-happy ending mode where the protagonists never win the contest or save the dog or get the guy or whatever it was that they wanted initially-- and yet in the midst of their miserable life with their alcoholic mother or whatever, there is that little ray of inner hope that says they will survive.

The Growing Season, by Noel Streatfield. Four English kids go to stay with their eccentric Irish Great-Aunt Dymphna when their parents are unexpectedly called away on an emergency. Aunt Dymphna recites poetry in response to all questions and expects the kids to totally fend for themselves. The oldest girl, Penny, who is twelve, gets stuck doing all the cooking and cleaning while the oldest boy, who is thirteen, wanders around with the youngest two buying food and trying to catch shrimp. Toward the very end Aunt Dymphna suggests that Penny didn't have to take on all the work herself, but too little, too late. Aunt Dymphna annoyed the hell out of me, and so did every other adult in the book. The kids had never had to take care of themselves before, and all any adult did was give them vague suggestions, then criticize them for doing things wrong and complaining about not being taken care of. They're kids! They're used to being taken care of! Usually I like the genre of kids learning new skills in a new environment, but this one rubbed me the wrong way by being too realistic about how hard it would be, but by then seeming to take the adults' side and claiming it was actually a great learning experience.
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