Forgotten Gems: Two Childhood Favorites Revisited

by | Mar 12, 2019 | Books, Reading | 6 comments

In today’s blog post, I’m taking a look at two of my favorite childhood books that I still return to again and again—and have a hard time putting down. Both are British novels published about half a century ago by one of my favorite authors, Noel Streatfeild. Both books feature unusual family dynamics, large houses, and a bit of ballet. Thematically, the stories vary quite a bit, but their unquenchable heart and verve are identical.

I have read most of Noel Streatfeild’s books for children, and most of them have become treasured favorites. (Check out my post here for a review of her lovely Bell Family series from the 1950s). As a Shakespearean actress, Streatfeild had a deep interest in theater and dancing, both of which play enchanting roles in the majority of her novels. In fact, I can only think of a handful of her books that don’t feature the performing arts—even her idyllic summer adventure novel The Magic Summer is peppered with poetry!

Obviously, I could talk all day long about how much I enjoy her books, and I will definitely have to write more blog posts about these stories in the future. But today I am going to focus two of her novels that were my *very favorites* around the age of 10-11 and which are still wonderful to reread.

The first is Dancing Shoes, which was published in 1957 (originally titled Wintle’s Wonders in Great Britain). The main character, Rachel, is a shy girl who slowly blossoms to confidence through her acting ability during the two years of heartache following her mother’s death. Although Rachel can be ineffectual when it comes to her own dreams, she is strong-willed about the future of her younger sister Hilary. Rachel is certain that Hilary will become a ballerina at the Royal Ballet School—just as their late mother intended—but Rachel’s plans fall apart when the two girls are sent to live with ambitious Aunt Cora, who runs a stage school where her spoiled daughter is the indisputable star. Of course, both Rachel and Hilary upstage Dulcie in the end, which makes a satisfying and humorous (if unrealistic) conclusion. 🙂

The Family at Caldicott Place was first published ten years later in 1967, under the original British title of Caldicott Place. (I also mentioned this book in my Best Books of Winter blog post.) This heartrending yet uplifting story takes place at a neglected old estate in the countryside, where an emotionally-strained family goes to stay after their father’s car accident. Three children from difficult backgrounds also become a part of the family, despite initial tension that stems from inevitable personality clashes. A cast of delightful, multi-dimensional characters and a truly beautiful ending make this novel one of Streatfeild’s very best.

While I have a great fondness for lyrical writing and detailed descriptions, I love Streatfeild’s books for their simplistic brevity, breezy dialogue, and ease of reading. As a child, I was a slow reader, and it typically took me a long time to finish books, but I could whiz through Streatfield’s wonderful novels quickly—and that’s just one of the reasons why they became my favorites. Both Dancing Shoes and Caldicott Place are short—I estimate that they’re around 40,000 words each—but they pack a poignant punch that make them definitely worthwhile.

If you haven’t yet checked out these sweet, timeless stories, I absolutely insist that you give them a try! 🙂

Recently Read: Louisiana’s Way Home by Kate DiCamillo, Beany and the Beckoning Road by Lenora Mattingly Weber, Cherry Ames: Staff Nurse by Helen Wells

Currently Reading: Rilla of Ingleside by L.M. Montgomery, The Lifegiving Home by Sally and Sarah Clarkson

6 Comments

  1. Donna

    It’s great to see others reading and loving the same books I did/do. Dancing Shoes is my favorite Streatfield. I can remember buying a copy in the 1950s or 60s which was rarer – books like that came from the library, not from stores!
    I did own the Cherry Ames books (they must have been fairly inexpensive- and libraries did not have those series books) and family legend had it that I had many memorized.
    Beany Malone series was yet another favorites. Good to see they are still around and being read.

    Reply
  2. Tanya van Hasselt

    Thanks for this lovely review! The sense of connectedness all over the world through our lifelong enjoyment of Noel Streatfeild’s books is so happy-making. I love the way she shows children overcoming difficulties, developing strength of character and supporting each other, while being thoroughly natural and faulty, so that we could always identify with them. And I agree about the ending to Caldicott Place – it’s perfect.

    Reply
  3. Linda Sammaritan

    I cant wait to read about the Caldicotts! It amazes me the number of vintage books available. On Scriblerians.com, I do similar reviews called Vintage Reads. From your photo at the top, the only one of those books I’ve written about was The Hundred Dresses. It’s great to meet another person with the heart of the vintage reader!

    Reply
  4. Marion

    Anna Rose your posts are always so informative. You take us readers right to the heart of the book and make the reader want to run and grab a copy of the book being reviewed. The “Ballet Shoes” is another nice read by Noel Streatfeild. We have a soft cover version and later purchased a hard cover at a Library book sale.
    Enjoy the books you are reading.

    Reply
  5. Joan

    I enjoyed this review post. You always give a superb review. Thank You Anna Rose
    Joan

    Reply
  6. Marilyn

    Thank You for the reviews. We have a few of Noel Streatfeild’s books. I have a few but not all. Your posts are always enjoyable and such a treat.
    Marilyn

    Reply

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