Writing a novel for children or young people based in popular culture is a fraught matter. Just look how quickly we've moved technologically in the past few years, and how that has influenced the way that popular culture is consumed and valued. Oddly, reading novels from the 60s and 70s can seem less odd than reading those from the 80s and 90s, with references to cassettes and videos.
I have written about Noel Streatfeild's Ballet Shoes and The Growing Summer, but I think that Apple Bough (also known as Travelling Shoes- You've Got Mail has a lot to answer for!) is well worth revisiting. Three of the four Forum children are talented: Ethel as a dancer, Wolfgang as an actor and pop composer, but Sebastian is a very gifted violinist, and the family are touring the world with him. Myra, the oldest Forum child, is not talented, but is a loving sister and an ally of Miss Popple, the governess hired to teach them, since Sebastian's music career means that he can't go to school. When Ettie and Wolf decide that the time has come for them to assert themselves and pursue their own talents, it is Myra who finds a way for them to stay in London instead of travelling with Sebastian and their parents, who are totally oblivious that the children have tired of touring. Myra's love of their old house, Apple Bough, is eventually the inspiration for the family to find a permanent home.
Noel Streatfeild was an actress before she became a novelist, and I think that she portrays the realities of a career in performance for children very well: the hard work and dedication, but also the boredom, waiting around and sacrifices needed. The reader is often told that Sebastian is not considered a child by the other musicians he works with while playing, but outside music he is, if anything, quite young for his age.
Streatfeild fans will be glad to know that Madame Fidolia, the head teacher of the stage school attended by Pauline, Petrova and Posy Fossil, appears in this novel.
Sadly both books are out of print, but are readily available from online stores. Chartbreak is most suited to children 11+, and Apple Bough for 8+.
The title of this post comes from Sly and the Family Stone's Dance to the Music, a song which perfectly expresses the joy of listening to music!