Goodreads: Ballet Shoes
Series: Shoes #1
Pauline, Petrova, and Posy Fossil were sent home as babies by their guardian’s Great-Uncle Matthew, but they have not heard from him since and now money is getting tight. The girls make a pact to help earn money for the household by training at the Children’s Academy of Dancing and Stage Training, but though Pauline has a talent for acting and Posy is a dancing genius, poor Petrova would rather fly an aeroplane than appear on the stage. Still, all three have vowed to make their name appear in the history books and, with hard work, they just might.
Ballet Shoes is one of those comfortable books in which nothing bad ever happens and everyone is kind to each other. Oh, certainly things look bleak every now and then. Money is scarce and the Fossils worry now and then about having an appropriate dress to wear, but almost immediately all obstacles fall before them. Indeed, all their guardian had to do was open to the house to boarders and the family found themselves surrounded by a host of people willing to help them in a myriad of ways–everything from providing free education to free dance lessons. It sounds like a book too saccharine to be believed, and yet it is nothing short of charming.
The story itself is sweet, but the characters are the most endearing part of the book. I have always enjoyed stories about sisters and Pauline, Petrova, and Posy form such a delightful family. They each have their own talents and strengths, and they recognize this and support one another. Still, they are only human and they have their quarrels like any sisters. Watching Pauline and Petrova take on airs and scorn Posy for being younger is just too funny because it is so realistic. Likewise, it is quite fun to see Petrova challenge Pauline for turning into a diva after she lands a stage role. Though their story borders on the unbelievable, their family dynamics are spot on.
I only have two criticisms to offer. Firstly, I had difficulty believing the characters were the ages Streatfeild claims. The book opens with Pauline and Petrova very young–six and four, I want to say–but they speak like adults (just with the self-important airs children sometimes can get). As the book progresses and the sisters age, they speak more naturally, but always as if they were much older. Secondly, the last sentence nearly ruined the book for me. Streatfeild suddenly has Petrova self-consciously ask which one of the sisters girls would want to be. It jolted me out of the story, making me realize the author was there, probing for me the reader to relate to a character, not the way I had been (naturally sharing in their joys and sorrows, and admiring their talents) but unnaturally, as if the characters were just types: should I be beautiful and famous or smart and a tomboy or a dancing genius? I felt as if the author were shouting at me, “This is a story and I need you the reader to think about what you want to be when you grow up!” As a child, I know, too, I would have hated the implication that I had to be someone else, could not be myself.
These criticisms are minor details, however, and I do not wish to give the impression that they make the book any less charming. Ballet Shoes is ultimately a feel-good tale, one of those stories you want to read to remind yourself that the world is bright and beautiful and full of hope and good people. It is a message that never grows old.
*This post is part of the Year of Re-Reading Challenge being hosted by Lianne at Caffeinated Life.