Book #1 for CCLRC - Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild (1936)
Read for the Children's Classic Literature Challenge.
Ballet Shoes is the story of three orphans all adopted by the same man when they were babies. Pauline was brought home to Gum's (Great Uncle Matthew) ward, Sylvia, to keep her company. He'd found her during one of his excursions for fossils, in a shipwreck without parents and no identification. The adoption was finalized and Pauline became the very first living Fossil. Two years later, Petrova (a Russian orphan) followed, and then two years after that, little Posy, whose mother was a dancer and had to give her up because she just couldn't afford to keep her.
This charming story starts with the decline of the household finances. Gum leaves Sylvia enough money for 5 years as he goes off on another adventure, but he doesn't come back when they expect him, and they don't hear from him. Finally, Sylvia resorts to taking in boards, like Mr. and Mrs. Simpson and their magnificent motorcar that Petrova just adores, then Miss Theo Dane, an instructor at the Children's Academy of Dancing and Stage Training, and lastly the two female professors, Doctor Jakes and Doctor Smith.
Fortunately, the two lady professors take such a shine to the children that they offer to teach them, and Miss Theo gets all three of the girls acceptance into the Children's Academy of Dancing and Stage Training, and even Petrova gets to spend time with her new favorite person, Mr. Simpson and his motorcar. Posy takes to dancing like nobody ever expected, undoubtedly an inherited gift from her mother's genetics. Pauline turns out to be quite the actress, and learns that even if one is excellent as an actress, one can still learn techniques and tips from observing others. And Petrova, well, poor Petrova would rather not be in theater at all, but because sweet Sylvia, or Garnie as the children call her, needs a bit of extra financing, she perseveres with her theatrical studies.
The children cannot be in official productions until they turn twelve. Then, however, they are paid for their work. Pauline's first performance was for Alice in Alice in Wonderland and she was paid a delicious 4 pounds a week. These performances ran for months at a time, or as long as the public wanted to see them.
Honestly, my fascination with Ballet Shoes stems from being a small part of that world for 6 years when I was a child. I almost wish that I'd dedicated myself to it more. My poor instructor. Looking back, I gave her a rough time by my lack of enthusiasm as I started to grow older. I got chubby, and that was embarrassing enough without squeezing me into leotards and tights.
Ballet Shoes is an intriguing look into a world that very few people understand. Characters aside, just the inner workings of the ballet interested me. That said, the girls have their likeable and their unlikeable moments. There were times when I couldn't stand Pauline or when Posy mouthed off with an arrogance unbefitting such a very little girl. Truly, though, if you love something and are good at it, why shouldn't you pursue it with every fiber of your being? This is what all the Fossils do in the end, and that is why I love the story.
A note on reading ages: I tried when I was a child to read this book, but could never get past the first chapter. Now that I'm an adult, I gulped it down. Sometimes it does take a grown-up to appreciate fine children's literature.
2007 version - This is the one starring Emma Watson from Harry Potter. I've yet to see it, probably because I didn't care for the reviews, or for some character alterations (cough, the professors, cough).
1975 version - I grew up on this version, and still love it today. It's even on DVD. This might be what encouraged my interest in ballet, actually, apart from seeing The Nutcracker live when I was 4.