Goodreads: Party Shoes
Series: Shoes #5
Selina is living in the English countryside with her cousins, aunt, and uncle while the second World War rages on and her parents are held in a Japanese internment camp. Since rationing is strict, a package from her American godmother causes much excitement within the family. However, the package contains a party frock and shoes–and no one is holding a party during wartime. The cousins are determined nevertheless that Selina should get to wear her dress before she outgrows it, so they organize a pageant as an excuse. As the village becomes increasingly invested, however, Selina may find herself shut out.
Ballet Shoes is arguably Noel Streatfeild’s best-known work, but I found myself even more enchanted by Party Shoes. Somehow it seems more realistic, more down-to-earth. Perhaps it is because, though one or two of the children are talented, they do not achieve the same success as the Fossils (or, if they do so in future, it will come less easily). Or perhaps it is the wonderful family dynamic created by the presence of seven children all in one house and all attempting to work on the same project. Just about everyone wants to be the star and toes must be stepped upon and feelings hurt. Everything is noise and bustle, and even when John attempts to call a family council, Benjamin will insist on humming, Phoebe will refuse to do anything unless it is done her way, Augustus will interrupt with irrelevant complaints, and everyone will find themselves getting rather heated. Streatfeild captures childhood perfectly and it is hard not to fall in love.
As in Ballet Shoes, minor problems sometimes arise to hinder the children’s plans. After all, the war is still on and rationing means trouble not only finding enough food to invite friends to tea but also finding enough material–even scraps–to create costumes for the pageants. However, no problem proves too large to solve–and most disappear quickly and quietly because once again Streatfeild puts all the right people in all the right places. How convenient, for example, that a pageant written by children should need some improving and that a man who works in the theatre should arrive home just in time to produce it all. How nice that Sally should need some extras in her ballet and the local ballet school would agree to appear. All in all, this is another feel-good book, one that invites readers along to enjoy the story without having to stress over the outcome.
Once again the one criticism I have concerns the dialogue. The children here act much more like children–especially nine-year-old Phoebe who is inordinately stubborn and writes verse that, while perhaps good for her age, is not really good–but four-year-old Benjamin stretches belief. He acts like a four-year-old, whining and getting messy and living in his own little world. But he speaks the strangest lines, most of them beginning with “my dear”. Is it not a bit patronizing for a toddler to inform his elders of his opinions while beginning with “my dear”?
Only Benjamin jolted me out of Streatfeild’s charmingly drawn world. Otherwise, I lived with the children, delighting in the plans for the pageant, worrying over the bad actors and the missing costumes, and waiting excitedly for the grand moment to arrive. Streatfeild is a master storyteller and it is rather a shame that for years I did not know she had written books besides Ballet Shoes.