Tuesday, January 24, 2012
Ghosts and Ballet and Mini Reviews, Oh My! (Some read-alouds for the 7-12 age range)
It's suitable for good readers from ages seven and up, it would also make a good read aloud (if your children are okay with the idea of ghosts. Mine are not, even though the ghosts in the story are benevolent.) It is the first of a series.
Ballet Shoes (Noel Streatfeild). Great Uncle Matthew is passionate about collecting fossils and other natural items, and fills his large house with the things he's collected on his travels, including the three abandoned baby girls -each under different circumstances- he brings/sends home on three separate occasions to his niece, Sylvia. When GUM (Great Uncle Matthew) disappears and money gets tight, Sylvia takes in a motley assortment of boarders who all teach the girls something, which allows the three very different but devoted "sisters" to come into their own.
Written in 1936, it was really quite a progressive book for it's time, when you think about it, in terms of its treatment of women and careers. I like that it shows, in a rather vague way, that every person has something to teach us.
I'm remembering the scene in the movie You've Got Mail, where Meg Ryan's character kind of gushes over this book and the other "Shoe" books by Noel Streatfeild. I'm sorry to say I can't gush, but it was a good story, with solid writing and interesting characters. It just didn't grab me. Maybe because the problems the family faces are easily and conveniently solved with no real character growth on anyone's part. Although it's not one I'm personally anxious to read aloud to my girls, it would make an good read aloud, especially if you have little dancers in your family.
This is the first time I've read this children's classic, and I wonder how I'd have reacted if I'd read it at the right age. Maybe then I would have gushed, but I doubt it. Even then I liked a little more dramatic tension in my stories. (I wish the publisher had put in more pictures by Diane Goode in this version I read. It was too slim on the illustrations.)