Old favorites

Yesterday I had the great good fortune to have a copy of Ballet Shoes fall into my lap. It landed there after school; by bedtime I'd finished it. I hadn't re-read it since childhood, though it was one of my all-time favorites, with scenes that stayed with me ever since. Who could forget little Posy en pointe in her bare feet? Petrova with her aeroplanes and motor cars? Pauline getting her license?

I don't always enjoy coming back to books I loved as a child. Sometimes adult perspective reveals defects a child wouldn't notice. I've been burned before, though I can't think of a particular example at the moment. In any case, I had no trouble with this one. I was especially interested in Posy's attitude towards her dancing. She is a perfect example of the "egoist" that Robertson Davies talks about all through World of Wonders. He distinguishes between egoists and egotists, which my dictionary doesn't. Davies says that an egoist is someone who (properly) focuses on their art to the exclusion of all else, even good manners. That is, their egotism is appropriate. Anyway, that's Posy, all right. She is devastated when her teacher falls ill, but only because it means an interruption in her training. And somehow, coming from her, this sentiment feels proper.

Super-talent is so compelling to read about. Was anyone else besides me obsessed with those A Very Young . . . books? They were photo essays about real-life talented ten-year-olds. There was a ballerina, a gymnast, I forget what else. How I pored over those!

Lena, meanwhile, is deep into Betsy-Tacy. It's perfect for her right now: definitely challenging, but not enough to be discouraging. I'm so pleased to report that when she's reading you have to call her name at least three times to get her attention, bless her little bookworm heart!

Today Daniel and I will be off to the library whether he likes it or not. I need to pick up copies of Circus Shoes and Skating Shoes.


  • It's funny, that re-reading books you loved as a child thing. I sometimes feel embarrassed 'cos a large chunk of my bookshelf is just that - I've been collecting books by Ivan Southall from the charity book fair - but I love them still. Sometimes I tell myself I'm keeping them for D'Arcy...but we all know that's not true....One of my favourite authors as a child was K M Peyton and her books go as well for me as an adult - good escapism. Ursula Le Guin's Earthsea rocks my world too, though she has clearly written the later ones for older readers!
    Yet again, you've made me think about my bookshelf, thank you!!

    posted by Blogger Mummy/Crit on 7:34 AM  

  • I never heard of Ballet Shoes! I feel like a missed a girlhood rite of passage based on your post.

    My only experience was a Christmas Eve, several years ago, staying at my parents' house in my sister's old room. They still had her books on the shelf and I picked up a copy of Are You There God, It's Me Margaret. I didn't remember it being about divorce. It seemed pretty simple. I was surprised it had been such a big deal to me when I read it. The same with A Wrinkle in Time. I kept waiting for scenes I remembered to show up in the text. By the end I realized they were only the version I had created for myself and retained in my head as the original story.

    posted by Blogger doulicia on 10:00 AM  

  • Oooh! You beat me to it! I was gonna do a whole Streatfeild post.


    Maybe I'll do it anyway.

    Good luck finding any of them (other than Ballet Shoes and Dancing Shoes) here in the US now. You may have to order them from

    posted by Blogger liz on 2:22 PM  

  • Oh man, I loved all the Streatfeild books! I think I still have copies buried over at my parent's house somewhere. My British Grandmother and Aunt used to send them to me as birthday gifts.

    posted by Blogger Kate on 8:59 PM  

  • And one other thing--I think the skating shoes book is called White Boots (at least my old UK copy was).

    posted by Blogger Kate on 9:01 PM  

  • I had a set of biographies of famous composers when I was in grade school, and back in those days, we came home for lunch. I listened to the story of Beethoven's life over and over and over. I guaged myself by his childhood: he'd written a piece of music for the piano by age x, I wasn't quite that age yet, but would be soon; I'd better get going, I thought. I don't recall being stressed about it, but I'm not sure looking to a real-life, childhood prodigy as a role model is the healthiest role model. What SHOULD a kid look to for a guiding example?

    posted by Anonymous Anonymous on 7:22 AM  

  • White Boots is another name for it, yes. And there was also Party Shoes, New Shoes, Theatre Shoes, Film Shoes, Ballet Shoes for Anna...

    posted by Blogger liz on 4:29 PM  

  • Theater Shoes, Dancing Shoes and Ballet Shoes all came back into print when the movie "You've Got Mail" came out - Meg Rayan's character mentions them. I think they may be OP once again. You can find all the Streatfeild books on E-bay. Oddly the text in the English and American versions differ.

    posted by Blogger GuusjeM on 4:52 PM  

  • Unfortunately, there are lots of books where the American version is different from the English version. We have some bowdlerized Beatrix Potter books. EVEN WORSE are all the pages that are now missing from Richard Scarry's Best Word Book Ever. There used to be a page with flowers, a page with "dwellings" from around the world, a wild west page, and several more. And nowhere does the book say it's revised. And LET'S NOT EVEN GET STARTED on what they did to poor Mary Poppins....

    Ahem. Ballet Shoes is definitely in print. Circus Shoes doesn't seem to be, though I filled out a request form at the library anyway. (I know they used to have it; I checked it out as a kid from this very same library.)

    Liz, please go ahead and write your Streatfeild post anyway!

    Doulicia, get reading! It's not too late!

    Kate, maybe the next time you're at your folks house you could dig 'em out and lend them to me for a few days...

    "Anonymous," you're so right, as always! (Yes, dear...) I do remember turning eleven and feeling sad that it was too late for me to be featured in an "A Very Young" book.

    posted by Blogger Julie on 9:11 PM  

  • I missed those books too! How cool that Lena loves to read. Nothing could swell a bookworm mother's heart more. :)

    posted by Blogger mrsd on 8:05 PM  

  • Julie... have you read the Redwall series by Brian Jaques? I love reading the sories even though they are for "children" ;o)

    posted by Blogger Rhodent on 8:26 PM  

  • Oh, Ballet Shoes! That was a great one. My strongest memory is of Pauline getting her big break in the movies, and discovering that film acting is a whole different skill.

    My girl is also loving Betsy-Tacy-- we're reading it out loud to her. Her best friend is a few books ahead of her in the series. Have you seen the Betsy-Tacy Society's web site?

    posted by Blogger elswhere on 11:22 AM  

  • How funny, my daughter is nose-deep in Betsy-Tacy and Tib this week. I missed those growing up, but I read every single Wizard of Oz book.

    I dearly loved the "Shoes" series as well. Thanks for reminding me to put them on the list!

    posted by Blogger Carson on 11:01 AM  

  • I am a huge Streatfeild fan, and have collected about 25 of her books, including both the US and UK editions of Skating Shoes/White Boots. Remember when they were mentioned in You've Got Mail? Betsy-Tacy got mentioned there too.

    Another of my favorites that I bet some of you have read is They Loved to Laugh by Kathryn Worth. That is worth hunting down if you never came across it as a teen.

    posted by Anonymous Anonymous on 7:17 PM