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Posts Tagged ‘Noel Streatfeild’

Troubling a Star, Madeleine L’Engle
I’d been saving this last book in the Austin series – and it was the perfect read for a warm, lazy Saturday. I curled up on the couch and read all about Vicky Austin’s trip to Antarctica. Not my favorite of the Austin books, but a good ending to the series, and a fun adventure for a character of whom I’ve grown fond.

Horoscopes for the Dead, Billy Collins
I took my time with Collins’ new collection, dipping into it before bed for several weeks. His sly, witty, thoughtful gift with words is still present; there are some gems here. I love him because he makes my husband laugh – and makes me laugh – and then makes me pause and reflect on life’s quiet beauty, found in the little everyday moments.

The Moffat Museum, Eleanor Estes
This last Moffat book was a treat – who else would think of making a museum out of the old barn in their backyard, complete with stardust, a rusted brown bike and Rufus the Waxworks Boy? Jane and Rufus are in fine form, loving childhood as much as they ever did – but Sylvie and Joey are growing up, which gives the book a tinge of poignancy. Sylvie’s wedding is lovely, but it was Joey getting his working papers and leaving school that choked me up. And the ending is just perfect.

Loose Diamonds…and other things I’ve lost and found along the way, Amy Ephron
A lighthearted, frothy, sometimes random collection of essays about life in L.A., motherhood, marriage, and occasionally jewelry. Ephron often hides behind her cynicism, but I prefer her writing when it’s honest and a bit nostalgic. To review for the Shelf.

Make the Bread, Buy the Butter, Jennifer Reese
A cookbook-cum-memoir, born out of a desire to see whether making stuff from scratch is really worth it. Reese’s conclusions are always honest (each recipe carries a “Hassle” rating) and often hilarious. And some of these recipes (like the apricot-ginger bread!) look delicious. (Though I probably won’t be curing my own meat, or keeping chickens, any time soon.) To review for the Shelf.

When You Reach Me, Rebecca Stead
I picked this up at the Booksmith one night and spent the rest of the evening reading it. Such a fascinating story, with echoes of A Wrinkle in Time (the protagonist’s favorite book) and several interesting twists. The reader is just as puzzled as the characters for a while – and then, suddenly, beautifully, all the strange clues start to make sense.

The Most Beautiful Walk in the World: A Pedestrian in Paris, John Baxter
Baxter is a bookworm and an expat (he’s an Aussie) living in Paris, and his musings on the City of Light are erudite, thoughtful and often charming. He does relish shocking people with tales of the seedy side of Paris, but there’s plenty of variety here. (Of course, it makes me want to go back to Paris. Le sigh.)

The Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels, Ree Drummond
I love the Pioneer Woman’s blog and Twitter account – she’s hilarious – and I own her cookbook. (Yum.) So I loved her lighthearted, funny, romantic tale of falling in love with her husband, “Marlboro Man.” She pokes sly fun at herself and shares lots of embarrassing moments – no wonder she claims to “channel Lucille Ball” sometimes. But what I love most of all is her quiet commitment to love, honor and cherish her man forever. I’m working on that same commitment with my love.

31 Dates in 31 Days, Tamara Duricka Johnson
A funny, honest, refreshingly real account of one woman’s quest to revamp her dating habits – and learn to have fun again, instead of desperately clutching at each man as a potential mate. I liked her writing style, and appreciated her ingenuity – and energy! – in coming up with 31 dates. (To review for the Shelf.)

Theater Shoes, Noel Streatfeild
I loved Ballet Shoes, but hadn’t read this book till I found a lovely red vintage edition on Etsy. A wonderful tale of three half-orphaned children, who learn to sing, dance and act in wartime London. The details of theatrical life, the loving (but very human) siblings, the privations of wartime London – all are well rendered and come together to make a wonderful story.

Dancing Shoes, Noel Streatfeild
I liked this story too – though not quite as well as Ballet Shoes or Theater Shoes. Rachel and Hilary, sisters by adoption, have a deep and complex relationship that carries the book. Some of the other characters veer into stereotype at times, but there’s lots of dancing, some funny moments and a happy, if ambiguous, ending.

Oolong Dead, Laura Childs
It’s been a while since I picked up a Tea Shop Mystery. The writing is not brilliant, but the mysteries are intriguing, the characters comfortable and familiar, the tea shop itself a delightful spot. A fun bit of cozy mystery fluff.

Skating Shoes, Noel Streatfeild
Another lovely, hopeful story from the author of the Shoe Books. Harriet and Lalla bond through ice skating – and Harriet’s confidence begins to grow, and Lalla gradually learns she’s not the center of the universe. A sweet story (and Harriet’s brothers are wonderful supporting characters).

What are you reading lately?

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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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