How many of us finally learned how to pronounce “Streatfeild” while watching You’ve Got Mail??
Noel Steatfield was a actress before becoming one of the most popular British children’s authors of her day! Among her best-loved titles are her twelve Shoe Books. Some have stayed in print more than others — you’ll easily see which ones by the book covers below. Most are stand alone novels and can be read in any order. Each novel has a little bit of Noel’s exciting real life written into it.
Ballet Shoes is the first, and possibly best known of the Shoe Books, and has delighted young girls for over 80 years. Three British orphan girls, being raised as sisters (The Fossil Sisters), uncover their individual talents in order to save their adopted family from financial ruin. Ballet Shoes, 256 pages. (1936) Emma Watson stars in a 2007 film version of Ballet Shoes. I haven’t seen the movie, but it has pretty decent reviews and seems to stay pretty close to the original story.
Four redheaded siblings, the oldest are twins. Father and grandfather loved tennis when they were young and hope the children will continue the family tradition. But each child has a talent of their own already. All that is, except Nicky, the middle child who just can’t seem to find her stride. Will she ever be good anything?? Tennis Shoes (1937)
What would it be like to join a circus? Peter, and his little sister, Santa, find out when their guardian aunt dies suddenly and they are forced to seek out their only remaining relative, Uncle Gus, who works for Cob’s Circus. Will Uncle Gus let them stay? Will they too become part of the circus? Or will they return to normal life? Circus Shoes, 320 pages. (1938)
A semi-sequel to Ballet Shoes, in Theater Shoes we meet Sorrel, Mark and Holly, three siblings living in London during WW2. Their mother is dead and their father is missing in the war. They’ve been sent to live with a grandmother they’ve never met. It turns out she was a famous actress in her day and insists the three children attend theater school! They are shocked! Can they run away instead? Or might they each have some hidden talent? You meet up with the Fossil Sisters again in this story. Theater Shoes, 272 pages. (1944)
Set in WW2, Selina is living in the English countryside with relatives. One day her American godmother sends her a beautiful party dress and shoes. Can she and her cousins come up with a event worthy of wearing them? Wait and see! Party Shoes, 320 pages. (1947)
The Fossil Sisters appear again when a British family moves to California to help their father recover from WW2. The three children struggle to find their way in America. The oldest daughter misses ballet, the middle son longs for his piano and the youngest difficult daughter unexpectedly finds herself cast in his film version of the Secret Garden! Will her sour personality make or break the movie? Movie Shoes (also published as The Painted Garden) — (1949)
Harriet and Lalla meet at the ice skating rink. Harriet is beginning lessons to strengthen her body after a long illness. Lalla has been skating for awhile and is a budding skater with a bright future. The two girls become the best of friends, but can they maintain their close friendship as their paths diverge over time? Skating Shoes or published as White Boots, 224 pages. (1951
The Bells live in London where father is a reverend. Mother and the four children make the best of their busy and noisy neighborhood, but meager funds. Each has a secret longing, but there is never enough money to make any of their dreams come true. Can this good family work together to overcome their financial situation? Family Shoes (1954)
Two orphaned sisters living with a mean aunt and a horrible cousin. Can they all survive being in dance school together? What life lessons might they all learn as they struggle to succeed and get along? Dancing Shoes, 224 pages. (1957)
What happens to a family when one of the children is a violin prodigy? Can the family uproot from its beautiful English home and travel the world together? Will they ever come “home” again? Can they ever have a normal family life again? Traveling Shoes (1962)
New Shoes is the only true Sequel to among the Shoe Books. It continues the story of the Bell Family from Family Shoes. The family moves to Crestel New Town, a village where no one knows each other — and no one cares. Can their family help people become friends and change the whole town? What do you think?New Shoes (1963
Anna and her two brothers lose their Bohemian-living parents in a Turkish earthquake. The children are forced to move to England and live with their father’s brother, who does not care for children. The uncle believes dancing is a sin and refuses to let Anna study her beloved ballet. Anna’s brothers and the timid aunt do all they can to help Anna live her dream, but will their efforts ever be enough? What could possibly save them from the small lives they’ve come to inhabit? Ballet Shoes for Anna, 254 pages. (1972)
Middle Grade Reading Level, 200+ pages each volume, Published from 1936 – 1972.