Was is it about orphans? Orphan stories are big in the history of children’s literature:
Sara Crewe, Dorothy Gale, Mary Lennox, Lucy Pevensie and her siblings, Harry Potter, Anne Shirley as well as countless others including the characters in the Streatfeild novels. I’m ashamed to say that I had never read the Shoe books, and recently listened to them on audiobook. As best I can tell, according to Worldcat the Shoe Closet includes Ballet Shoes (1936), Circus Shoes (1939), Dancing Shoes (1957), Family Shoes (1954), Movie Shoes (1949), New Shoes (1960), Party Shoes (1946), Skating Shoes (1951), Tennis Shoes (1956), Theater Shoes (1945), and Traveling Shoes (1962). (Most are out of print and if you’re lucky your library will have them available.) This blog entry will be about the two I have read:
In Dancing Shoes, Rachel and Hilary, sisters by accident are suddenly orphaned and sent to Rachel’s paternal uncle in London. Rachel’s mother’s dying wish was that Hilary attend the Royal Ballet School. The aunt, Mrs. Wintell owns a dancing school, and it isn’t exactly the Royal Ballet. Rachel schemes to make sure that wish happens, Hilary’s wish? To be one of Mrs. Wintell’s Wonders.
I listened to this on audiobook. The reader, Elizabeth Sastre, has a strong scottish accent and deftly created a sense of place with her voice. 5 discs. Listening Library, 2007. SH 3/09
Theater Shoes is a companion to Ballet Shoes featuring some characters from the first book. I haven’t read Ballet Shoes and did not feel like I missed anything. Sorrel, Mark and Holly Forbes’ mother is dead and their father, a naval officer, is lost in the Pacific during World War II. They are sent to their grandmother’s home in London. Their mother is from a famous acting family. Their grandmother enrolls them in the Children’s Academy of Dancing and Stage Training. It turns out that the Forbes’ children inherited the family talent, as all three of them become successful. The fun part of the book is learning how it happens.
I listened to this on audiobook. The reader, Elizabeth Sastre, has a strong scottish accent and deftly created a sense of place with her voice. 6 discs. Listening Library, 2007. SH 3/09
So, what is it about orphan books? For me, it’s that their lives matter. That anyone can become successful and loved. (Many thanks to childrensbooks.suite101.com for the list of orphans in children’s lit!)