Review policy

Due to time pressures, I am unable to commit to reviewing books at the moment. However, please feel free to recommend or discuss by tweeting @MsTick68 or commenting on here. Thank you!

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Two dancing schools

My parents bought me this beautiful edition of Noel Streatfeild's Ballet Shoes for my birthday in September:

This is the 75th anniversary edition, with cover and slip cover designed by Cath Kidston. Some of the original illustrations, by Ruth Gervais, are reproduced on full pages, bordered and backed by Kidston's designs. It is a beautiful edition of the classic book, and I would say a great present for a Cath Kidston fan, a lover of children's fiction or a very careful 8-12 year old reader!

Re-reading the familiar story of the three Fossil sisters, adopted by Great Uncle Matthew (GUM)  and his niece, Sylvia (who the girls call Garnie), I was struck by the school-story aspect of it. Whilst Pauline, Petrova and Posy have lessons at home from their lodgers, Dr Jakes and Dr Smith, they also attend the Children's Academy of Dancing and Stage Training. Ballet Shoes was published in 1936, in an era when Elinor M Brent-Dyer's The Chalet School, Elsie J. Oxenham's The Abbey Girls and Dorita Fairlie Bruce's Dimsie series were at the height of their popularity, and the themes of fitting in, finding one's place in society and honour that are common in school stories can also be found in Ballet Shoes.


I was very excited to learn that theatre critic Lyn Gardner had written a children's book, the first of a series. Published by the wonderful Nosy Crow, it is the story of Olivia and her little sister Eel, who are the daughters of an actress and a circus high wire walker. Following their mother's death, their father leaves them with their grandmother, who runs a stage school. This is a school in the full sense of the word- the pupils study the usual school curriculum as well as acting, dancing and singing.

Eel and Olivia make a dramatic entrance, as Eel ruins spoilt Katie Wilkes- Cox's performance at a school show, and Katie becomes Olivia's enemy. And to add to Olivia's woes, her grandmother has refused to allow circus skills, where Olivia shines, in the school's curriculum. She struggles to find her place and fit in, until her surreptitious practicing of wire walking in school leads to her making friends, and regaining her honour when Katie makes false accusations against her. It's a fun read, and I can imagine 9+ readers enjoying it, and looking forward to reading the others in the series.

School story fans would do well to read Did you ever stop to think, and forget to start again?, the blog of Chalet School fan, er... @chaletfan, and Practically Marzipan, the blog of @actuallyaisha, who is re-reading and writing about the amazing Marlowe books by Antonia Forest.


  1. Love the post - and thank you for the mention! :-)

  2. You're welcome! I thought of you while reading the Olivia books; lovely mix of modern and traditional in school stories. And thank you for your comment!