Monday, May 25, 2009

The Famous Fossil Sisters

A classic about three self-sufficient orphans who set out to make a name for themselves in the world of show business. Originally published in 1937 and unavailable in hardcover for a decade, Ballet Shoes is the first and best-loved of the "Shoes" series by Noel Streatfeild. In a gift edition or in paperback, Ballet Shoes is perfect for budding ballerinas and anyone who's ever dreamed of being a star.

Title: Ballet Shoes: A Story of Three Children on the Stage
Author: Noel Streatfeild
Start & Finished: 3/4/09
Published: 1937
Publisher: Random House, Inc
Pages: 233 (paperback)
Genre: Juvenile Fiction- Classics/ Contemporary

Noel Streatfeild was a daughter of the Bishop of Lewes, a volunteer during both World War I and World War II, and even an actress during her life but what she is probably most well-known for was being an author. More specifically, a writer of mainly children’s books including Ballet Shoes. It was published on September 28, 1936 and is known as her best novel. It was even declared by the Library Association as "one of a number of "books which should always be in print" in 1948 and in 1991, the Library of Congress recognized it as the Children's Books of the Year.

For a book that has been heralded as a contemporary classic ever since it was first released, very little actually happens during Ballet Shoes. It’s not an adventure story, nothing big or extremely exciting ever happens, and it’s rather a quiet story altogether but it was still very well written and I really liked it. I can see why it is still remembered today so fondly (J.K. Rowling claimed it was one of her favorites) too and I’m not sure if it’s because the author is British or if it’s because it was written in the late 1930s, but the writing style did remind me of C.S. Lewis and Dodie Smith a little as well.

In the last sentence of the book the author has one of the characters ask, “I wonder”-- Petrova looked up-- “if other girls had to be one us, which one they’d choose to be?” I found this an interesting question for the character to pose and maybe a tiny bit out of character at that but each of the three Fossils’ are very unique in their own way. Pauline likes to act, Posy is a born ballerina, and Petrova does both as a means of helping out the family when really her heart is set in the sky as she would love to be able to fly planes. As much as I loved the characters for their individualities, I think Pauline was my favorite (not just because she played title role in Alice in Wonderland either) and the one I would have liked to have been the most like at her age.

This book was written by a British author intended for British girls and as there is a constant struggle for money, it is talked about a lot- however, having never been outside of America the shillings, pounds, etc. was like another language to me. Speaking of which, there is a bit of French in the book as all of the Fossils learn it in their dance academy but you really don’t need a working knowledge of British money, French, or even ballet terms to enjoy the story. Ms. Streatfeild enjoyed working with the characters from Ballet Shoes so much that they have appeared in Curtain Up (aka Theatre Shoes), The Painted Garden (aka Movie Shoes), and a minor character from the book appears in Apple Bough (aka Traveling Shoes).

Link: Author Wikipedia, Book Wikipedia, Author Article, Book Article, The Fossil Cupboard Message Board

Picture Explanations
Illustrations by Ruth Gervis (Streatfeild’s older sister)


  1. Sounds really interesting - I guess I've been living under a rock, since I've never heard of it.

  2. I love that cover. There's just something about ballet shoes that makes me feel... comforted or happy. Don't know why. I didn't take ballet after the age of 5 but I coveted those shoes, boy.

    Never heard of this one before. Will look for it in the library next time I am there.

  3. It sounds like a sweet book. I didn't know about it, so thanks for the review and history.

  4. I've heard of this book before, but I'd never heard anything about it. It sounds lovely. Thanks for the great review!

  5. I am not familiar with this book. I really enjoyed your comments about the author. Now I'm really curious about the book. Thanks for sharing, Jen.

  6. That cover is so sweet, reminders me of my daughter's struggles through dance class!

    I haven't heard of this book, but I heard of the 'shoes' series, odd isn't it.

    Dottie :)

  7. Thanks for making reading so much fun!

    Oh, one of my faves. I loved the mention in You've Got Mail :].

  8. Thanks for making reading so much fun!

  9. Bermudaonion: Probably not. I didn't hear about it either until recently and only because of the recent adaptation.

    Cat: I actually didn't have this cover! I couldn't find a decent pic of the cover I had so I used another one. I never did take ballet but boy, how I wanted to. I learned how to walk on my toes first and it was years before I had to train myself not to walk that way. :) Hope you enjoy it if you're able to find a copy!

    Sharon: I was a little worried I was bogging the review down with too much history so I'm glad you enjoyed it! It was a good story though :)

    Memory: It was a pretty accurate look into that time period and I really liked it. Not my favorite book but something that would have been a comfort read for me if I had discovered it as a child. Glad you enjoyed the review!

    Wendy: You're welcome and I hope you check it out! Streatfeild truly was a remarkable woman.

    My Blog 2.0 (Dottie): I had never heard of the Shoes series (or else I might have tried to read them in the order she had written them though they have hardly anything at all to do with one another) before I read Ballet Shoes. I wish I could have taken dance classes as a kid!

    The Book Resort: Thank you for the lovely award! I really do need to get around to watching You've Got Mail one day. It sounds like such a good movie.

  10. I am glad I am not the only person that has never heard of this book!

  11. I love the shoe books! Thanks so much bringing back happy memories of reading these books.

  12. I love the cover!!!

    There is an award waiting for you on my blog page.

  13. I read this one when I was a kid, and even though I hadn't the least interest in ballet, I remember loving the book and really identifying with the characters. I seem to remember also enjoying Circus Shoes, but not quite as much as this one.



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