Monday, July 10, 2017

MMGM: Theater Shoes

Today's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday pick:

Theater Shoes, By Noels Streatfeild
Part of the Shoe Series
Theater Shoes

Written by Noel Streatfeild
Cover illustrated by Alissa Imre Geis
Random House Kids, 1945
Ages 8-12, Lexile 890L
288 pp, 69500 words

Family, Following your Dreams, Theater, Dance, WW II

"It is very difficult to look as if you minded the death of a grandfather who, though you may have spent your holidays in his house, certainly seldom remembered that you did."

Siblings Sorrel, Mark, and Holly Forbes have lost their mother and their grandfather. Their father, a naval officer stationed in the South Pacific, is presumed dead. When they are sent to London to live with their estranged grandmother, the children are required to attend the Children's Academy of Dance and Stage Training like their family members before them. The children have other ideas about their future. Poverty and deprivations of war force the group to make hard choices and to explore new paths. This book was originally entitled Curtain Up.

The opening really grabbed me. In fact, though the prose is old-fashioned, I immediately took to the three near-orphans and their plight. The children move to war-torn London, which provides a fascinating setting with rare glimpses into the hardships of the mid 1940's. The main characters follow in the footsteps of the sisters from Ballet Shoes, but also in the paths of their parents and relatives. The theme of pressure to follow our family's expectations is one to which modern readers can relate. The middle of the book gets a bit soggy as the narration shifts more to the details of the children's careers than the children themselves. And unfortunately, I found the siblings a bit too similar to one another. The secondary characters and the historical details definitely make up for the deficiencies though.

I highlighted various covers and my initial thoughts about Ballet Shoes back in 2012 and you'll find my review of the movie on last Friday's Summer Drive-In.

1. Looking for more books with a similar vibe?

Middle Grade Strikes Back recommends their top five middle grade books about ballet.
BookRiot has listed best books for theater lovers.

I unequivocally insist you read Bloomability, about a girl who goes to a foreign boarding school and discovers herself and Willa by Heart, about a girl who gets involved in her first theatrical production.

by Sharon Creech
Willa By Heart,
by Coleen Paratore
Cover by Barbara McGregor

2. Other MMGM bloggers recommend

Dara Palmer's Major Drama, by Emma Shevah, reviewed by Bookshelf Monstrosity.
Drama, by Reina Telgemeier, reviewed by Jasmine Marie, the Bookish Mama.
King of Shadows, by Susan Cooper, reviewed here on Bookish Ambition.
Summerlost, by Ally Condie, reviewed by Word Spelunking, Reading Nook, and GeoLibrarian.

by Ally Condie
Cover by Jennifer Bricking
Dara Palmer's Major Drama,
by Emma Shevah
Cover by Helen Crawford-White

3. The BBC discusses the career of Noel Streatfeild on their website.

4. Schools like the one in the book still thrive across America and in Europe. Kids who like this book can look into what life is like at a modern theater or dance academy, visiting or interviewing the students.

While I would hardly compare this book to Harry Potter, I think the details of school life will appeal to modern readers in the same way that English boarding schools have captured the imagination of a new generation.

Check out the  Summer Drive-In review of the Ballet Shoes movie, from July 7, 2017.
View all the Summer Drive-In reviews for 2017.

Check out all the recommended titles for Marvelous Middle Grade Monday for July 10, 2017 available on Shannon Messenger's Ramblings of a Wannabe Scribe.

Feel free to leave your MG recommendations in the comments. Thanks!


  1. How interesting that these books are still in print. I never heard of Noel Streatfeild until the movie You've Got Mail.

    1. ??? Sounds like I'll have to watch You've Got Mail again. Thanks!

  2. The book and author are both new to me. Thanks for the background info on each. The story line sounds like a winner even 70 years later.

    1. Streatfeild is well-known across the pond, I'm told. Thanks for stopping by.

  3. I have Ballet Shoes in my library for the occasional dancer who wants to read about ballet, but theater books don't circulate very well in my library. We have an on again, off again theater program, so it's just not something my students are passionate about. Love Streatfield myself, and the movie of Ballet Shoes with Emma Watson was fun.

    1. I had all but forgotten about the first book when I saw the movie. Then I found reissues of the first three books at a library sale. I've enjoyed rediscovering these British classics. Thanks.

  4. The book and author are both new to me. Can't believe they were printed before I was born and still are being printed. I did see "You've Got Mail" and loved the movie. Nice to know Emma Watson was in the movie Ballet Shoes. Will have to check the series out. I loved everything about the theater and dance in the late 1950s, so I'm surprised I didn't know about the series.

    1. I'm not sure how long it took these books to make it across the pond. I think the movie's appeal may draw readers into this series. Thanks.

  5. I suspect this is one I'd really enjoy, even if I ended up skimming through that soggy middle. Thanks for the recommend, and happy MMGM!

    1. I still have Dance Shoes on my shelf, but don't want to read it too close to this one. Also, I want to be sure I am giving it my full attention instead of reading it in little pieces. Thanks for stopping in!

  6. Interesting choice. Now and then I find a book of that age that charms me. Thanks for telling me about this one.

    1. Definitely take time to see the movie. It was adorable.

  7. I really enjoyed your review. I tried Ballet Shoes, and while I liked a lot about it, I did think it was a little dry in parts. It sounds like this one might be similar, but I'm really intrigued by the war setting. I'll definitely have to look for this one!

    1. I loved the characters and setting. Maybe someone will make a movie about theater shoes! Too bad they didn't get Tom Holland as a little boy. He'd have been perfect for Mark.


Thank-you for taking time to share your thoughts!