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Posts Tagged ‘dancing’

Noel Streatfeild wrote Ballet Shoes and Skating Shoes and Theatre Shoes and Dancing Shoes. I’d start with Ballet Shoes first; it’s my favorite. Although Skating Shoes is completely wonderful—but it’s out of print.

—Kathleen Kelly, You’ve Got Mail

I’d never heard of Streatfeild or the Shoe Books before I saw You’ve Got Mail (and watched poor Kathleen Kelly struggle to control her tears as she helped a bookseller at Fox Books find the right book for a customer). It was several years before I picked up a used copy of Ballet Shoes in Oxford, and of course I loved it. (Then I saw the BBC film adaptation with Emma Watson, and loved it too.)

I found a copy of Dancing Shoes, under its original title of Wintle’s Wonders, for $1 at Brattle last fall, but had somehow never got around to reading it. Then, recently, I found a vintage edition of Theater Shoes on Etsy, and started reading it the day after it came in the mail. I loved it so much I raced down to Borders to buy Skating Shoes (which is, fortunately, no longer out of print). And I’ve spent a large part of the past week immersed in these stories of dance, family and dreams.

My eclectic (and growing) Streatfeild collection

I love the quiet bravery of Streatfeild’s characters – not only the children who must go on the stage or learn to dance, but their older relatives and guardians who must make do with very little in wartime. I love the glimpses into backstage life, the sweet (but not saccharine) family dynamics, the descriptions of pretty clothes (which catch the eye all the more in times of poverty). Most of all I love the hope that permeates these stories. The hope that poor, often orphaned children, who have come from nothing, can learn to act or dance or sing and really make something of themselves.

Kathleen Kelly was right – these books are completely wonderful. And how fitting that, as a fictional bookseller, she introduced thousands of new readers to a beloved series.

Have you ever learned about a book through a movie? (And have you read the Shoe Books?)

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1. “You don’t have to know.” (From my friend Tracy Shilcutt, who was listening to me freak out about what to do with my life after college graduation.)
2. “Give yourself something to look forward to every day.” (From the ever-wise Jacque, on combating boredom and loneliness.)
3. “Go home at five o’clock. The work will wait for you.” (From Glenn, my supervisor at my first grown-up job.)
4. “Use real butter.” (From Julie, and Julia Child, and many other good cooks.)
5. “There is no judgment or competition in yoga.” (From the lovely McKay, yoga teacher extraordinaire.)
6. “Throw your hat in the ring.” (From Tara Austen Weaver, aka Tea.)
7. “Fresh herbs make everything better.” (Jon has never said that, to my knowledge, but he uses fresh herbs in his delicious dishes whenever he can.)
8. From my mom: “If you don’t love it, don’t buy it.” “Stand up straight.” “Put an avocado pit into guacamole to keep it from turning brown.” “Plan ahead.” “At least try to look nice.”
9. “Real writers can’t not write.” (From Al Haley, my college creative writing professor.)
10. “You can do anything for one more week.” (From my friend Frankie – helpful in either surviving crisis mode or just sticking it out.)
11. “Keep your elbow in!” (From Cole, while swing dancing.)
12. “Knowing what you don’t want is just as important as knowing what you do want.” (From the ever-wise Mr. Walker, teacher, advisor and mentor extraordinaire.)
13. “Proofread everything.” And other editing advice, from Ron.
14. From my dad: “The male ego is a fragile thing.”

What advice do you cherish? We can all certainly use a few wise words.

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