Sunday, March 18, 2012

Theater Shoes by Noel Streatfeild

Theater Shoes by Noel Streatfeild (originally published as Curtain Up) was a pleasant read -- one of those books that I would have loved if I had discovered it when I was about 9. (How did I not discover Streatfeild when I was growing up?)

Siblings Sorrel, Mark, and Holly Forbes lived with their grandfather during most of World War II. Their mother is dead, and their father is away at war. Their lives change completely when their father is presumed "missing" and their grandfather passes away. The Forbes children are sent to live with their grandmother, who disowned their mother for marrying their father. They don't know what to expect at their grandmother's home, but are surprised, when they arrive, to learn that their mother's side of the family is all involved in the theatre in one way or another. The children are sent, not to their familiar boarding schools, but to the Children's Academy of Dancing and Stage Training, where their education will be much different than what they have experienced in the past.

As in other Streatfeild novels I have read, there are some minor sibling quarrels, some gentle competition between the students at the school, some issues with genteel poverty (in this case, complicated by rationing and scarcity due to the war), and bright futures all around. The sisters from Ballet Shoes play a minor role in this book, so it might be helpful to read that one first.

I thought there were a few dark undertones in the book -- for instance, Sorrel's character seemed to be developing for the worse in subtle ways. I can see her competing bitterly with her cousin Miranda for the rest of their lives. Despite that, it was still an enjoyable read. I think if I were to read all of Streatfeild's books in a short time, I would find them repetitive -- but at the rate of about one a year, they are charming.

(Reviewed from a copy borrowed through my library system.)

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