Ballet Shoes


What's the story with Noel Streatfeild? (Incidentally, I just found
out she was a woman, which comes as a great shock to me, and which
probably everyone else in the world already knows, a la Evelyn Waugh.)
 I was no big fan of Little Women, Anne of Green Gables, and other what
I termed "girl books" when I was a kid, but I read Ballet Shoes when I
was about 10 and I was instantly hooked. I read it over and over, drawn
to the weird descriptions of their clothes (what is a tarlatan dress
anyway?), captivated by the overwhelming British-ness of everything,
drawn into the whole powerful feeling of it all. It creates another reality in its entirety: smells, money,
feelings, furniture. And when you read it it is as though you visit
this other reality, it's sort of like visiting Paris. And once you
visit Paris, you want to go back, just to enter that amazing other
place again. Her books, particularly Ballet Shoes, are like that for
me. All those strange entrancing things of other countries are there: different papers (acting licenses), different money (all those shillings and crowns!), quaint rites (mauditions). 

I more or less forgot about this book and then there I was, a grown up.
I was talking to a particularly macho, aggressive gentleman of my
acquaintance, who said (in the context of some much larger discussion),
"Yeah, a book doesn't have to be about your interests. I remember I
read some book about ballet shoes when I was a kid and I was just crazy
about it…"
It was confirmed for me then. These books exert an eerie and wonderful power.
What's the deal? Why is it so excellent? I'm reading Theater Shoes now to Chestnut , and it's just the same. Love. Absorption. Magic, basically.

11 thoughts on “Ballet Shoes

  1. What?? Noel Streatfield is a *woman*?! Hang on a sec while I readjust my entire worldview.
    I came to your blog via finslippy, and look forward to reading more!


  2. My daughter is a bit nerdy and unfeminine (not that there’s anything wrong with that!) – into Pokemon and Yugioh and Battlestar Galactica – but even now that she’s sliding into her late teens she still sneaks back to re-read Ballet Shoes and the others. And she HATED ballet!
    I too have come from Finslippy and will visit again.


  3. I’m 35 and STILL sneak back to read Ballet Shoes, Theater Shoes and Dancing Shoes when I can find them. I’ve been trying in vain for years to get my hands on a copy of Skating Shoes which I read as a child and loved, or Circus Shoes which I found at a library in my early twenties and adored.


  4. Finslippy sent me here too! Jolly glad I did….
    Tarlatan, by the way, is a kind of fine muslin, quite an open weave, and quite stiff.


  5. I, too, am shocked to learn Noel Streatfeild was a woman. At least I haven’t read the books yet… Saving them for a rainy day.


  6. I know! re: being a woman. I had this vision of a very cosmopolitan British uncle type of person. With a pipe and an urbane sense of wit. At any rate, welcome to you all.


  7. Love, love, LOVE the shoe books — always have! My daughter just started them.
    Big Dot, I have a copy of Skating Shoes from the UK where it was published under the title White Boots — Maybe try searching that title!


  8. Confession: I thought that the Shoe books didn’t exist! They were mentioned in “You’ve Got Mail” and so I just assumed they were fictitious. Oh boy, I feel dumb!
    Guess I will have to check them out now!


  9. I went through many copies of Ballet Shoes, wearing out the bindings because I read it over and over again. I wrote down their daily schedule on poster board and put it up on my bedroom wall. I tried to follow it but I don’t think I could figure out what the Cromwell Road was.
    Love that book.


  10. oh lord. i never even post on blogs but i must – these books shaped me. I *think* i have read everything that noel streatfield has ever written including her autobiographical-ish books and her other more adult books. ballet shoes is the best although i like traveling shoes and thursday’s child a lot too. I am 25 and still sometimes revisit these books if i need a little spring in my step…


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