Noel Streatfeild Essay - Critical Essays

Streatfeild, Noel


Noel Streatfeild 1897–

British author of fiction and nonfiction for young adults, younger children, and adults.

Streatfeild is a pioneer of the modern children's novel. She was one of the first authors for young adults to speak to her audience directly and without affectation. Her early fiction, for which she is best known, lacks the patronizing tone and unrealistic view of life typical of much of the fiction published for young people in the 1930s and 1940s. Her work is straight-forward, informative, and often humorous.

Experts believe that the beginnings of the "career" novel can be traced to Streatfeild's first book for young adults, Ballet Shoes (1936). Thoroughly researched, this book realistically describes the physical and emotional challenges met by the young adult who hopes to dance professionally. Streatfeild used the same format and writing techniques for her Circus Shoes, which won Britain's Carnegie Medal in 1938. These books set the standard for all of her career stories. Her protagonists are generally ambitious, talented, and dedicated, and her female characters are allowed many of the same choices available to her male characters.

Streatfeild's writing is often noted for its warmth, perhaps because her childhood memories are the source for her work. She was a rebellious child whose family did not share her interest in the arts. In her fiction, Streatfeild often portrays individualistic young adults trying to assert themselves within their families. These families are generally of the British middle class—very proper and highly structured. But while Streatfeild is clearly an advocate of the child and the child's right to individualism, she is just as clearly a defender of the sanctity of the family unit. Love, loyalty, and family security are her major concerns.

The type of family conflict that Streatfeild presents in her fiction is very different from that found in the fiction of the last two decades. Her work reflects the mores of her generation and upbringing; she resolves family conflicts in such a way that the importance of the group is realized and reinforced, its unity preserved, and the integrity of its individuals maintained. Streatfeild has not addressed subjects like divorce, drugs, and sex, and her stories always end happily. This places her in a markedly different school than currently prominent writers for young adults, and some critics believe that her work is dated. But others repeatedly praise her willingness to uphold standards no longer emphasized in literature for young adults. (See also Contemporary Authors, Vol. 81-84, and Something About the Author, Vol. 20.)

Phyllis Bentley

Too much of Parson's Nine reads like E. M. Delafield's Diary of a Provincial Lady with the wit left out. The Reverend David Thurston's wife struggles to bring up her nine children decently on a parson's income, the while they prattle as never children did on sea or land. Then comes the war, the sensitive Baruch's tragedy and his twin's grief. The earnest sincerity of this novel makes one loth to condemn; but the 180 pages of childish reminiscence are really too many for an adult mind.

Phyllis Bentley, "New Novels: 'Parson's Nine'," in The New Statesman & Nation (© 1932 The Statesman & Nation Publishing Co. Ltd.), Vol. 3, No. 68, June 11, 1932, p. 778.

The Times Literary Supplement

At the beginning of ["Parson's Nine"] one has fears that its subject will be the dismal life of a parson's wife, worn out with childbearing and work in the house and parish. But Miss Streatfeild disappoints us most agreeably…. The vicarage family are an engaging and amusing set…. The governess, with her enthusiasms and her devotion to the family, is a delightful figure, and throughout the book we are conscious of Catherine, with her loving, yet sardonic view of husband and children. Miss Streatfeild has developed in more than one way since the publication of her first novel, "The Whicharts."

"Fiction: 'Parson's Nine'," in The Times Literary Supplement (© Times Newspapers Ltd. (London) 1932; reproduced from The Times Literary Supplement by permission), No. 1588, July 7, 1932, p. 500.

The Christian Science Monitor

Simple in plot and construction, ["The Parson's Nine"] is, nevertheless, delightfully readable. The author possesses to a remarkable degree John Galsworthy's ability for character delineation. Each child is a distinct personality who becomes more fascinating as he matures. There is a particularly fine study of the twins Baruch and Susannah….

"Wife to an Idealist," in The Christian Science Monitor (reprinted by permission from The Christian Science Monitor; © 1933 The Christian Science Publishing Society; all rights reserved), January 21, 1933, p. 5.

The Times Literary Supplement

Nobody knows the stage child better than Miss Streatfeild; and [in Tops and Bottoms] her picture of Bobbie drafting his father's Era advertisements at the age of twelve and of Doris, the child prodigy, is deliciously amusing. But throughout the story runs Beaty's tragic destiny, which hangs like a cloud over the jollity and sardonic humour of the Timpson family's story—a story of the decline of the Variety Theatre and its people. Miss Streatfeild spares us nothing of sordidness in her picture of slum life in the beginning of the century, but the gaiety of the later chapters removes any implication of gloom from the book: even the final tragedy is so inevitable, so artistically shown, as to leave the reader with a feeling of satisfaction, while each character—even if, like Wee Weelum, it only strays into the pages for a few moments—is a complete and human creation.

"'Tops and Bottoms'," in The Times Literary Supplement (© Times Newspapers Ltd. (London) 1933; reproduced from The Times Literary Supplement by permission), No. 1638, June 22, 1933, p. 426.

The New York Times Book Review

Not the least interesting incidents and episodes [in "Tops and Bottoms"] are those dealing with [Beaty's gradual transformation from slum girl to proper lady under the guidance of the spinster Felicity]….

The relations of the gentle Felicity with her strong-minded friend Agatha, her rival in the art of flower gardening, are described with delicious subtlety of humor…. Miss Streatfeild's gift of delicate satire is here displayed at its best.

Felicity's younger sister Mabel had married a social inferior, a hard-working professional juggler known in music-hall circles as Tiny Timpson. When Mabel died in an accident, Felicity conceived it her duty to go on tour with Tiny as unpaid...

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E.B.C. Jones

Sarah, the would-be governess, when we first meet her [in Shepherdess of Sheep] is a chattering girl of nineteen, common, commonsensical, and far from engaging. She carries a certain conviction. But she never develops through all the years of our acquaintance. The plot of Shepherdess of Sheep requires that we should become aware of a great power of devotion in her, that we should believe in the love she felt for her charges, especially the neurotic Jane, for their mother, and for the young doctor whom she sacrifices to duty; but to convey feeling is one of the things of which, it appears, Miss Streatfeild is incapable. I have seldom read a book with less feeling in it, and this makes all that occurs a...

(The entire section is 207 words.)

Margaret Cheney Dawson

It might seem on the face of it that a book describing faithfully and affectionately the life of a large English household, and especially the days and ways of its four children and their devoted governess, would have an appeal for all domestically minded persons. But ["Shepherdess of Sheep"] cannot be recommended quite so generally. To enjoy it without a number of reservations one should be not only a woman (men, definitely, lay off) but a very, very womanly woman; should, moreover, be a woman who admires self-sacrifice, no matter how futile, for its own sake; and should further be one who thinks that modern ideas of therapy for abnormal children are all tosh—that, for instance, the treatment for a budding...

(The entire section is 230 words.)

Louise Maunsell Field

No person at all familiar with English novels is in the least likely to envy the lot of the English governess. The difficulties and hardships of her life have been dwelt upon often, and in many different ways. Nevertheless, [in "Shepherdess of Sheep,"] Noel Streatfeild has found a comparatively fresh angle from which to view the fortunes of her heroine….

Noel Streatfeild has that not too common ability, the power of making ordinary, everyday things interesting. Her people are human beings, her children real flesh and blood little mortals, neither imps nor angels. Mrs. Lane, the mother, is an invalid, and the effect upon her of her illness is well done…. But real as these other people become to...

(The entire section is 301 words.)

The Times Literary Supplement

"Ballet Shoes" is a children's novel of the theatre written by somebody who knows all about stage training and little girls, apart from a delightful gift for inventing and telling a story that children will find absorbing, and their elders too most likely…. [Pauline, Petrova, and Posy] are nice, natural children, with a sensible nurse and a kind aunt-guardian; and every step of their progress is pleasant, amusing and very interesting, dealing as it does with facts that should prove very helpful to [aspirants] for life behind the footlights.

"Shoes and Ships," in The Times Literary Supplement (© Times Newspapers Ltd. (London) 1936; reproduced from The Times Literary...

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Pauline, Petrova and Posy Fossil are three little foundlings who laugh and work their way through the Academy of Dancing and Stage Training [in "Ballet Shoes"]….

It is greatly to Mrs. Streatfeild's credit that these talented children never become the precocious little prigs they might in clumsier hands….

The author has made real a section of life too often distorted by fiction. By pointing out some of the things which make up stage magic, she has done a real service to the theater for its young audience.

Joan MacWillie, "Books for Young People: 'Ballet Shoes'," in New York Herald Tribune Books (© I.H.T. Corporation; copyright...

(The entire section is 112 words.)

Ellen Lewis Buell

["Ballet Shoes"] gradually shapes itself into an interpretation of the nature of a dramatic artist's talents as well as a detailed description of her training…. [Most] interesting of all is the account of the flowering of Posy's unself-conscious genius.

The children's efforts to help tide the household through lean days is a gallant and touching story, but the mass of detail in the latter half of the book disappointingly obscures the original and humorous mood in which the tale was conceived, and reduces the proper development of the girls' personalities into sketchy outlines. The story will, however, be read with interest … for its graphic portrayal of the children's stage world in London....

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Jane Spence Southron

In spite of the similarity of some of the subject-matter, "Caroline England" is in every way far ahead of Miss Streatfeild's previous novel, "Shepherdess of Sheep"; and, by reason of its ambitiousness, is in a different category from her earlier works of fiction. To start with, she has taken in hand the question of her English. There is no resemblance between the loose discursiveness and, often, wearisome meandering that spoiled so much of the narrative of the other book and the tight, balanced prose of this. Miss Streatfeild's dialogue was good before. Now it is excellent.

It is a well integrated, smoothly planned novel. If one could have approached it without reference to its predecessor, it would...

(The entire section is 521 words.)

George Dangerfield

Readers of fiction are now pretty familiar with the theme of the decay of an English upper middle class family. It is a pleasure to report that Miss Streatfeild's "Caroline England" is a variation which almost, if not quite, restores to this theme something of its original freshness.

There is little in the structure of this book which is original. Even that august and banal intruder, the royal funeral …, trails its sable across her closing pages. How often English novelists have used the obsequies of Victoria, Edward, and George to punctuate or pronounce the decline of some family! But even this tired device seems permissible here; for Miss Streatfeild has restraint, delicacy, integrity.


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May Lamberton Becker

I do like a book that takes me into a family—one that I like—in the first chapter. Before it is over in ["Tennis Shoes"] I not only knew, but had determined to keep on knowing, this family in the suburb of Tulse Hill….

The children were variously gifted…. The twins, Jim and Susan, at nine were already showing signs of amazing good tennis. Nobody in the doctor's family had much money, and tennis—as you are to discover if you did not know it before—runs into money if you take it seriously. So their grandfather sets up a bank like a house, into which every member of the family puts every spare coin, so the twins can belong to a club. The ways in which money goes in and out of this bank are...

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Ellen Lewis Buell

The 10 to 14 year-olds who learned about the training of London stage children in Noel Streatfeild's original and entertaining "Ballet Shoes" will be equally diverted with its successor ["Tennis Shoes"]. They may not notice, offhand, that this account of the making of a junior tennis champion is a better-built narrative than its predecessor, but it is a considerably smoother performance. Gratuitous whimsy is happily lacking and the characterization is quite as amusing.

Indeed, Miss Streatfeild's first claim to distinction lies in her witty and astute observance of human foibles as evinced in the young, and if the four Heath children were all red haired and all talented tennis players, it is easy...

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Ellen Lewis Buell

Noel Streatfeild has the faculty of taking her readers backstage with an ease which gives them the feeling of first-hand experience whether it be in a dramatic school or the world of amateur tennis, and she adds the advantage of letting them see it through the eyes of children who are distinct personalities. In ["Circus Shoes,"] she gives a special fillip of interest through the inexperience of two young protagonists….

The gradual development of their characters is as amusing and interesting as is this account of that world compounded of glitter, hard work and loyalty which the author describes with a knowledge and understanding gained on tour with a real circus—a Summer well spent indeed, as a...

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May Lamberton Becker

["Circus Shoes"] will entertain the family. Noel Streatfeild began as a writer of fiction for adults; the success of her first story for children, "Ballet Shoes," was in some measure due to her use of the same adult technique, while keeping inside the range of ten-year-old interests and experience. "Circus Shoes" is a thumping good circus story; it follows a real, easily identifiable circus through its complete routine winter and summer…. I did not wonder that the book received in England the medal corresponding to the Newbery Award [the Carnegie Medal]….

[The] book shows [the two children's] education by trial and error and transformation from potential snobs to honest workers, from...

(The entire section is 188 words.)

Irene Smith

Among children's books there has always been extra space for the literature of the circus, so [Circus Shoes] takes its natural place with a welcome from all sides. It is a charming book, wise, humorous, and authentic…. This story from the inside of a top class circus satisfies every meaning that the word holds to normal children, including human and animal performers.

Irene Smith, "'Circus Shoes'," in Library Journal, Vol. 64, No. 17, October 1, 1939, p. 762.

(The entire section is 73 words.)

Ellen Lewis Buell

The ten to fourteen year old readers who enjoyed "Circus Shoes" and Noel Streatfeild's earlier books are due for a shock with ["The Secret of the Lodge"]—but it will not be one of disappointment, and Miss Streatfeild's audience will undoubtedly be enlarged by a considerable number of boys, since it pushes deeper into the fields of their interests than did any of the others. Indeed, this tale of a mystery which four children unravel in a remote mansion on the coast of Cornwall is every child's dream of triumph over villainous adults made as convincing as a billboard advertisement.

The Chandler brothers and sisters were not pleased to be shipped off to spend the Summer with their Uncle Murdock, known...

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May Lamberton Becker

The English author who rolled up an American public by lively stories of young folks working and playing in ballet shoes, tennis shoes and circus shoes, widens that audience by a genuine thriller such as ten-year-olds love….

["The Secret of the Lodge"] pleases children by the reliance it places on children's quick wits and bravery, but it does not overestimate either: children really are quick and brave. Ten-year-old excitement in such English and such humor is worth noting.

May Lamberton Becker, "Four Kinds of Mystery," in New York Herald Tribune Books, November 10, 1940, p. 30.∗

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May Lamberton Becker

The preceding "Shoes" stories lifted Miss Streatfeild into the first rank of contemporary children's authors. "Theater Shoes," the best, lifts a book for children into general literature. We have novels for grown-ups about distinguished theatrical families and the working out of hereditary instinct in ways various and unexpected. Now for the first time we have a book for and about children, interesting them from the first and entertaining them till the last, which presents such a family, three generations at once on the stage, and holds the attention of any older reader interested in theatrical psychology.

May Lamberton Becker, "Stage Folk: 'Theater Shoes'," in New York...

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Dorotha Dawson

[Theater Shoes is another] spirited and charming story that compares well in style [with the popular Ballet Shoes]…. Vivid and interesting details of stage training and life and the natural attitudes and conversation of the children create an atmosphere which should appeal widely to young people twelve and older.

Dorotha Dawson, "Older Boys and Girls: 'Theater Shoes'," in Library Journal, Vol. 71, No. 1, January 1, 1946, p. 59.

(The entire section is 64 words.)

May Lamberton Becker

Any one who has sent, perhaps at some personal sacrifice, a parcel of new wearing apparel to some one in England during the war, and then suddenly realized that the recipient must pay heavy duty, will take a personal interest in this latest, and I think best, of the famous "shoe" stories. For with constant humor and truth in every detail. ["Party Shoes"] shows what came of such a risk and how well it came out.

May Lamberton Becker, "Stories about Boys and Girls," in New York Herald Tribune Weekly Book Review, May 11, 1947, p. 16.∗

(The entire section is 94 words.)

Josephine E. Lynch

[Party Shoes] describes in detail the preparations for and many characters involved in giving a pageant. Details may become boring to many readers, although Streatfeild fans will undoubtedly enjoy it. The children are natural; with a more extended plot the story would have been an interesting one of postwar Britain.

Josephine E. Lynch, "'Party Shoes'," in Library Journal, Vol. 72, No. 10, May 15, 1947, p. 818.

(The entire section is 62 words.)

Ellen Lewis Buell

More tightly knit than most of Miss Streatfeild's stories, ["Party Shoes"] has also the sense of theatre glamour and family activity which has made her "Shoes" series so popular…. And she presents here a whole new gallery of those amusing characters, young and old, which always lend such color and conviction to her books.

Ellen Lewis Buell, "For Younger Readers: 'Party Shoes'," in The New York Times Book Review (© 1947 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), June 1, 1947, p. 23.

(The entire section is 80 words.)

Ellen Lewis Buell

One of the most engaging qualities about the children in Noel Streatfeild's stories is that they have their normal quota of human frailty. It is a debatable point if Jane, the central figure of ["Movie Shoes"], hasn't rather more than her share but who wouldn't sympathize with a plain middle child, whose older sister and younger brother are extremely talented? Yet when the English Winters family went to California to visit, it was Jane's very contrariness, plus her love for animals, which won her a chance to play Mary in a film version of "The Secret Garden." No sudden miracles are worked; Jane doesn't become all sweetness overnight, nor does she achieve an easy success. Therein lies the veracity of this story. Miss...

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Louise S. Bechtel

From many angles ["Movie Shoes"] is the best of the popular "shoes" books for "middle age" young American readers. Here the very, very English point of view takes a big, honest bump on the shores of this country. The author does not minimize the shock to her English family, and the many little differences; the way she shows them, through the eyes of this gay and intelligent family, is excellent. Also, one cannot commend too highly her Hollywood portrait, chiefly of the lives of child movie actors….

Jane, who does not wear any shoes except her normal ones, is one of the most continuously horrid heroines ever invented…. Children will believe in poor Jane, be glad that her sufferings do not reform...

(The entire section is 216 words.)

Naomi Lewis

With its Cinderella-in-the-film-studios motif [The Painted Garden, British title of Movie Shoes] should be wildly popular, and cause considerable juvenile discontent…. The story is competently told, and the children, with all their dudgeons and vanities, are real enough. But a Presbyterian parent may hesitate before fostering, with this glossy tale, the universal California dream.

Naomi Lewis, "The Swineherd and the Turtle," in The New Statesman & Nation (© 1949 The Statesman & Nation Publishing Co. Ltd.), Vol. XXXVIII, No. 978, December 3, 1949, p. 660.

(The entire section is 79 words.)

The Times Literary Supplement

Like not a few novels of its kind, Mothering Sunday deals with present day matters without always conveying the sense that the author is, in fact, thinking in present-day terms. Anna Caldwell, a septuagenarian lady, unexpectedly insists on living in seclusion. A day comes when she is visited by the various members of her grown-up family, with their children. In the course of this visit the personal histories of the characters are unfolded; and finally a dramatic climax takes place. Miss Noel Streatfeild is at pains to explain the natures of all these persons in her book; but we are not always convinced by her psychology…. The author seems to accept so much that is improbable that the accumulation results in...

(The entire section is 163 words.)


["Mothering Sunday"] is told with a deft and economical hand. Precisely chosen conversational tidbits and natural actions are used in place of descriptive passages to build tremendous suspense for the family meeting. Where simple descriptions are used they are terse and pungent….

The beauty of this fine tale lies in the fact that the reader is allowed to know the members of the family intimately before the meeting and is thus prepared for and anxious to see their reactions to each other. The book is a feast of characterization.

Peter J. McDonnell, "Mother Knows Best," in The New York Times Book Review (© 1950 by The New York Times Company; reprinted...

(The entire section is 113 words.)

Marjory Stoneman Douglas

[The Caldwell children in "Mothering Sunday"] had neglected their mother and would have gone on neglecting her if someone had not reported that she was behaving strangely. The discovery of her secret, its revelation through the chapters in which each member of the family is presented separately, has the suspense, almost, of a superior English detective story. Its working out resolves, almost too patly, all the other individual problems. But through the detailed method the people grow real. Their characters are soundly and clearly built. You believe in them. The story becomes the story of a real family.

It is curious that there is a quality here which suggests that rare and beautiful book of Virginia...

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The Junior Bookshelf

The sad thing about [White Boots] is that it does not ring true, and that is disappointing from the writer who made that strange story of the Fossils (in Ballet Shoes) so completely credible and satisfying. It is about two just ten-year olds: Lalla, rich but an orphan, cared for by an ambitious Aunt and a Nanny who has far less body to her than that delightful woman who looked after the Fossils—and Harriet whose family has come down in the world and now lives (parents and four children) in a shop that, by this account, would hardly have kept six hungry cats alive, let alone six humans. Harriet is given the run of a skating rink, free (as you are told rather often) because her doctor knew the...

(The entire section is 226 words.)

Louise S. Bechtel

The "shoes" [in "Skating Shoes," the American title of "White Boots"] are those of young professional skaters. Lalla, the rich little orphan, meets Harriet, at a rink. Their friendship changes both their lives…. The outcome for both girls, in regard to their skating, as well as their characters, is very clever.

English family home life, with Harriet's amusing family living over their strange shop, is well pictured, and girls will like the three very different brothers. Lalla's aunt, with her snobbism and ambition, may be overdrawn, but someone like her must be behind every child star.

Miss Streatfeild writes so well that we welcome, for girls of about eleven to thirteen, whatever...

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Nancie Matthews

[In "The Picture Story of Britain," an] excellent and sensible book, Noel Streatfeild never talks down. She serves up hard facts about the United Kingdom from 55 B.C. to the present with a dressing of fascinating psychological data that makes the story easy to digest. Side by side with information concerning tradition, education, religion, the "most peculiar" money, government and industry are amusing tidbits….

It will be a learned parent (as well as child) who cannot glean from this slim but meaty volume some rich pickings not found in ordinary history or guide books.

Nancie Matthews, "Albion," in The New York Times Book Review (© 1951 by The New...

(The entire section is 115 words.)

Louise S. Bechtel

[In "The Picture Story of Britain"], a famous author does a good job for a prospective traveler of about twelve to fifteen…. [The text covers] a great deal of interesting information. Miss Streatfeild writes as one knowing children of both [Britain and the United States], and adds many imaginative touches….

Louise S. Bechtel, "Books for Boys and Girls: 'The Picture Story of Britain'," in New York Herald Tribune Book Review, January 27, 1952, p. 12.

(The entire section is 72 words.)

The Junior Bookshelf

The idea of taking children through the door of history and introducing them to the past is by no means new, but Miss Streatfeild's manner of performing this miracle [in The Fearless Treasure] is unusual…. The sights, sounds and smells of the past are brought vividly to life, and in each historical 'picture' one of the children recognizes his or her ancestor…. Miss Streatfeild has evidently written this book with the idea of inspiring the new "young Elizabethans" with an ideal to live for, through an understanding of their past. I think she has succeeded in presenting the past very clearly and in giving children a sense of the continuity and importance of their heritage, and their need of sympathy and...

(The entire section is 146 words.)

Claire Huchet Bishop

["The First Book of the Ballet"] is for girls and their parents who are fortunate enough to live not too far from a good teacher. It is the story of a ten-year-old girl who goes to the theatre, sees a ballet for the first time, and, like many other children under the same circumstances, thinks that she wants to become a ballerina. Only, she is in dead earnest, and we follow her through her first interview with the teacher, the beginning of her training, the development of her technique. The difficulties inherent to an artistic career, ballet especially, are not minimized by the author, who knows what she is talking about….

[We] are surprised to find no mention of Isadora Duncan…. Except for this...

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The Junior Bookshelf

Miss Streatfeild's story of the vicissitudes of the Bell family in their Rectory in South-East London [The Bell Family] is based on a radio serial which has held its place in Children's Hour for four years. While the rather picaresque plot certainly provides a happy mixture of grave and gay and a mirror in which many ordinary families may see themselves, there is no doubt that it does suffer more than slightly from its origin as a script for dramatic presentation. There is no faltering in incident or climax but here and there the grafting in of character to replace the effect of voice and intonation is apparent and may detract from the book's value for a perceptive child. But no amount of patching can destroy...

(The entire section is 168 words.)

Naomi Lewis

The rarest good books are about ordinary life today; one must admire, therefore, the expert hand behind The Bell Family—a particularly pleasant reminder of the narrative potentialities of rather poor (professional) families in rather large houses…. Readers have a choice of four nicely discriminated children, gifted or misunderstood, with which to identify themselves…. Our own choice would be the solid Virginia, who notes dispassionately that the games' captain and the head girl are not happily cast in the school play as the porcelain shepherd and shepherdess; and who did her good deed of minding the verger's baby with reluctance, because it had "a sneering face."


(The entire section is 129 words.)

Mary Welsh

From the very first page [of "Family Shoes," American title of "The Bell Family"] we are immediately in [the Bells' house, sharing their] tribulations…. There are wisdom and humor here and a delightfully sane family feeling. In her other "Shoes" books the author introduced us to real boys and girls; now she has created a highly diverting family, each member a definite personality.

Mary Welsh, "Vicar of London," in The New York Times Book Review, Part II (© 1954 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), November 14, 1954, p. 32.

(The entire section is 88 words.)

The Junior Bookshelf

[The Circus Is Coming (British title of "Circus Shoes") contains] rapid, lively pictures of the life of the circus. The men, the circus children and the animals all come to life under Miss Streatfeild's witty pen. The grown-up characters are a grand group of people, moving and speaking with completely convincing personalities, and even the animals appear as separate individuals as distinct as we are ourselves in their tastes, and prejudices and whims.

I cannot but admire wholeheartedly the shrewd and generous powers of observation, the wit and understanding which Miss Streatfeild has brought to this story.

"Coming of Age: 'The Circus Is Coming',"...

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The Junior Bookshelf

[In Wintle's Wonders] Miss Streatfeild has given us another gay and lively work peopled by a centre group of vivid personalities, while her intense interest in her subject gives detail and depth to the whole scene. Mrs. Wintle has a dancing school whose "Wonders" feed the choruses of popular shows and pantomimes…. Some of the characters are shadowy, some are caricatures by their exaggerated unpleasantness, but upon Rachel and Hilary, Uncle Tom, Mrs. Storm the governess, and Mrs. Purser the wardrobe mistress, Miss Streatfeild has lavished an intense sympathy and deep understanding so that the reader gains a real experience and something of the author's own insight into and perception of human nature. Miss...

(The entire section is 182 words.)

Virginia Kirkus' Service

I'm afraid the pattern is growing thin [in Dancing Shoes, U.S. title of Wintle's Wonders] after Ballet Shoes, Movie Shoes, Theatre Shoes, etc…. Despite the sentient portrayals of Aunt Cora and her partner, the plot thread somehow fails to cohere.

"Eight to Eleven: 'Dancing Shoes'," in Virginia Kirkus' Service, Vol. XXVI, No. 3, February 1, 1958, p. 78.

(The entire section is 55 words.)

Margaret Sherwood Libby

The "Shoes" series, of which ["Dancing Shoes"] is the sixth, is greatly enjoyed by girls of eleven or so, and "Dancing Shoes" will be no exception. It has many popular ingredients, orphan sisters in an unsympathetic home, details of the life of stage children being prepared to do chorus work in musical comedy or television, the exciting rivalry for possible solo parts in pantomimes, plays or movies and the pleasure of seeing the "good" rewarded and the "bad" discomfited….

To an adult this story, although it is as well written … and organized as the others, seems the weakest in the series not only because of the triteness of the Cinderella plot (complete even to the embarrassment of the...

(The entire section is 175 words.)

Margaret Sherwood Libby

["Queen Victoria"] will hold young people's interest from beginning to end. It not only gives the outward facts of Victoria's life, without fictionalizing, but attempts to suggest the elements in her character and upbringing which influenced her as a queen, and by brief comments on her relations with Melbourne, Disraeli and Gladstone to make readers aware, if only in an elementary way, of the part played by the Crown in British government. Particularly valuable are the quotations from the magazines of the day, from the Queen's own diary and reminiscences, and from her letters and those of her Uncle Leopold. Girls old enough to remember seeing on television or in the movies the ceremonies of the coronation of Elizabeth...

(The entire section is 188 words.)

Virginia Kirkus' Service

To any adult who recalls with delight Noel Streatfeild's Parson's Nine, many years ago, this juvenile story of a clergyman's family in contemporary London [New Shoes] will have special appeal. The four Bell children take a sombre view of their father's decision to move to a city parish…. How these four inventive new Londoners integrate with their new surroundings and help their new neighbors cohere into a functioning group makes a lively, cozy story of a household one third mischief, one third ingenuity, and one third love. American children are a devoted claque for Miss Streatfeild's Ballet Shoes, Movie Shoes, etc. This affords a new angle.

"Eight to...

(The entire section is 120 words.)

The Junior Bookshelf

Miss Streatfeild can write a masterly, sentimental tear-jerker of a story better than anyone, but New Town [British title of New Shoes] is by the doyenne of modern children's writers, not the magician who gave us, fresh and sweet with the dew on it, that exquisite story of the Fossil family so many years ago.

New Town is a story about the Bell family. It began as a Children's Hour serial, and bears the marks of its origin. The instalments are terribly tidy; the dialogue has that relentless brightness so characteristic of radio. It is very competent, exactly calculated, made to measure; uncommonly readable, too. It should be enormously popular. But how much better Miss Streatfeild...

(The entire section is 259 words.)

Margery Fisher

By far the most successful theatre stories for children are those which, with children as their subjects, can show rivalries and ambitions unaffected, as yet, by the awkward, sordid, bewildering adult world. Here Noel Streatfeild is outstanding. Her young actors, skaters and ballet pupils are infatuated by the theatre. They are ambitious, self-centred, as deeply obsessed by technique as any young aspirant for a jumping rosette. She even succeeds, sometimes, in conveying that intangible but unmistakable thing, star quality—in Posy, for instance, youngest of the three girls in Ballet Shoes, who, when the brilliant teacher falls ill, inquires at once what is to happen to her own career; or in Rachel in...

(The entire section is 399 words.)

The Junior Bookshelf

A new book by Noel Streatfeild is always something to which we look forward. Since the days of Ballet Shoes she has concerned herself with families where the children have marked talents for dancing, music, skating or acting, and where the parents take a prominent part in the working out of the story. The circus and the world of films have also been used as backgrounds, and the ordinary schoolchild with little or no talent in any of these directions, may well be fascinated for a time with the details of training for these professions. [Apple Bough] is no exception; David and Polly (the father and mother of the children) are musical and artistic; Sebastian, Wolfgang and Ethel are respectively highly...

(The entire section is 318 words.)

Zena Sutherland

The atmosphere of the artistic and musical world [in Traveling Shoes, U.S. title of Apple Bough] is vivid, the children are sophisticated but completely convincing; characterization and motivation are perceptively described. To adult readers, the whole milieu is reminiscent of the unconventional musical family of The Constant Nymph.

Zena Sutherland, "New Titles for Children and Young People: 'Traveling Shoes'," in Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (reprinted by permission of The University of Chicago Press; copyright 1962 by the University of Chicago), Vol. 16, No. 4, December, 1962, p. 66.

(The entire section is 87 words.)

Marcus Crouch

The most skilful, sincere and honest writer of [career-books]—and she was much more besides—was Noel Streatfeild…. Ballet Shoes [1936] established her immediately as a major writer for children…. [It] showed a profound understanding of child behaviour and a rare concern for accuracy in the factual background. What gave the book its enduring quality was its warm, strong tenderness. The three Fossils were characters who exist in their own right. Noel Streatfeild was too wise and industrious to adopt the soft option of a sequel, but she could not prevent the Fossils creeping back into later stories. The recurrent theme of Noel Streatfeild's writing is the virtue and the necessity of hard work; it was...

(The entire section is 206 words.)

Nora E. Taylor

["A Vicarage Family"] is an autobiography written as a story. Mostly it comes off very well, though every once in a while the impersonality becomes too self-conscious as, for instance, in the recurrence of the expressions "the children's father," or "the children's mother," where "father" and "mother" would have been natural.

But this is a small quibble about a story that evokes matter-of-factly the hardships and rewards of English clerical life in the early years of this century. Miss Streatfeild sees herself, the Vicky of her book, with the remarkably clear vision not only of hindsight but also of a warm and understanding maturity.

Perhaps she tends to excuse the inexcusable a bit...

(The entire section is 260 words.)

The Times Literary Supplement

Miss Streatfeild's account of a childhood spent in an Edwardian vicarage [A Vicarage Family] has the genuine flavour of a period piece. She writes easily and pleasantly within certain definite limits; she is often very funny and sometimes really moving.

"Private Lives," in The Times Literary Supplement (© Times Newspapers Ltd. (London) 1963; reproduced from The Times Literary Supplement by permission), No. 3220, November 14, 1963, p. 923.

(The entire section is 62 words.)

Ruth Hill Viguers

The common denominator of [Streatfeild's books for children] and the quality that lifts even the lesser ones out of the realm of the ordinary is the sense of family. And it is not merely a sense of family unity, though that is strong, but of people drawing strengths and weaknesses and individuality from different members of the family, from certain positions in the family, and from traditions, customs, activities, joys, and sorrows of the family group. [A Vicarage Family] is like an original painting: it has richness that even the most delightful copy cannot give. The book's substance is the fountainhead of all Miss Streatfeild's children's books.

Told as a story, this is nevertheless...

(The entire section is 300 words.)

The Times Literary Supplement

Possibly no one but Miss Noel Streatfeild could have carried off the outrageous plot of The Children on the Top Floor with such an air of insouciant plausibility. A winsome bachelor "television personality", delivering his Christmas message, rashly suggests that listeners with families of children are to be envied. Oh! to wake in the morning "to the squeal of delighted children opening their stockings!" Squeals the next morning there are: four assorted infants are lying on his step. Four Coram-like orphans, without the hint of a parent—a dashing fictional gesture…. Four talents and temperaments in Streatfeild country! A daydream to end all daydreams.


(The entire section is 130 words.)

Barbara Ker Wilson

All Noel Streatfeild's stories for children reflect something of her vivid memory of her own childhood, her consciousness of the way of life in which she was brought up, and her particular interests. (p. 11)

Although there were pleasant times, on the whole she describes her childhood as unhappy. She was the family misfit, a nonconformist in a constant state of rebellion. (p. 13)

In later life, the adult who was not a happy child can perhaps remember more acutely childhood feelings, can recall more vividly the barriers that exist between children and adults…. Such acute memory is shown again and again in Noel Streatfeild's stories. (p. 18)

A professional knowledge...

(The entire section is 3357 words.)

Carolyn Heilbrun

Twenty-seven years ago when there was no television but only books and the loneliness of long afternoons, I read "Ballet Shoes" by Noel Streatfeild. The memory of that book has persisted into afternoons that are not lonely enough, and into an age where, when we have mastered all our inventions, television may be the single one we continue to regret. Miss Streatfeild's new book, "The Children on the Top Floor," is about two boys and two girls connected tangentially with television. The giant tube, whatever ills we may ascribe to it, has diminished neither the wonder of Miss Streatfeild's knowledge nor her story-telling gifts….

"The Children on the Top Floor" is not about "the world of television."...

(The entire section is 261 words.)

The Christian Science Monitor

Miss Streatfeild brings to "The Children on the Top Floor" the good characterization and inside knowhow about children's careers that made her "Shoes" series so popular. But while she has updated the career side … the atmosphere remains prewar. Even if 10-14's swallow the quite-fantastic beginning, it is doubtful that they will have much sympathy with children who leave all the decisions to Nanny and the governess.

"Children's Books in Review: 'The Children on the Top Floor'," in The Christian Science Monitor (reprinted by permission from The Christian Science Monitor; © 1965 The Christian Science Publishing Society; all rights reserved), May 4, 1965, p. 7....

(The entire section is 100 words.)

The Times Literary Supplement

[Away from the Vicarage, the continuation of Noel Streatfeild's autobiography,] describes her attempt to break away from the restriction of her vicarage home and her saintly father's attempt to preserve there, if not in the parish, a vanished way of life. She is good at describing that disproportionate indignation which provides the rebellious child's necessary motive power, and good at the nostalgic recalling of details of daily life and relationships in 1918. We could have done with more such detail. The blurb claims "startling candour" for her treatment of her wild days as a R.A.D.A. student and actress. This is not apparent; it would have been better if she had either hinted more or revealed more. As it is...

(The entire section is 168 words.)

Ruth Hill Viguers

Vicky's adventures and attitudes [in On Tour] represent what many considered typical of young women of the period. The novel is the author's own story, as Vicarage Family was, and it is told with the same directness and detachment. The poignance is never put into words, but it is felt. The fascinating, often amusing, background makes the book nostalgically appealing to adults who remember the twenties. It should give much pleasure to young people also, for Victoria, under her rebelliousness and brash independence, remains the sensitive, intensely loyal person she was as a child of the vicarage.

Ruth Hill Viguers, "Stories for the Older Boys and Girls: 'On Tour',"...

(The entire section is 126 words.)

Zena Sutherland

[On Tour is] just as enjoyable as the author's description of her childhood; here the account of the Strangeways family is picked up at the end of World War I. Isobel is an artist, Louise is getting married, and Victoria (the author) is prepared to battle at the vicarage on behalf of her desire to be an actress. Surprisingly, no battle. The autobiography goes on, with a sort of wry relish, to describe Victoria Strangeways' theatrical career: her flapper days in London while studying, the local tour, and the tours in Africa and Australia. A vivid picture of the nineteen-twenties, of theatrical life, and of the Strangeways family. (pp. 170-71)

Zena Sutherland, "New Titles...

(The entire section is 149 words.)

The Junior Bookshelf

Miss Streatfeild, with her good background knowledge of ballet and theatre, makes an excellent guide to the young opera-goer. Unfortunately, [Enjoying Opera] is so condensed that she has no chance to give more than the briefest information. To anyone of about 12 who is just beginning to be interested, this is a useful introduction, giving notes on the history and production of opera, brief biographies of composers and performers, and short accounts of some of the best-known stories. It was a happy thought to include modern operas which appeal to children, such as "The little sweep" and "Amahl and the night visitors."

"For Children from Ten to Fourteen: 'Enjoying Opera',"...

(The entire section is 117 words.)

The Times Literary Supplement

The Growing Summer, which inverts the idea that children really want a ruleless, clockless, back-to-the-primitive life, shows Miss Streatfeild in excellent form. Father's only relative (his parents having been killed by a bomb) is legendary Great-Aunt Dymphna, who lives in Ireland. Mother's family is in the antipodes. So, when father is stricken by illness in the Far East, and mother is summoned to join him, it is to Aunt Dymphna's that the four … are hastily dispatched….

To know this towering character is an education: she should be remembered long. Not so the spoilt young film-star runaway boy…. This dreary cardboard intruder should never have found his way into the book; he should be...

(The entire section is 138 words.)

The Times Literary Supplement

The very young reader to whom Noel Streatfeild addresses her Enjoying Opera is not likely to be lured to the opera house by the potted history of opera forming the central chapters of this book, especially when towards the end it degenerates into little more than a list of names and dates. Now and again (as in the case of [Christoph] Gluck's and [Richard] Wagner's reforms) Miss Streatfeild's simple exposition hardly suggests specialist knowledge behind it. The author is happier in telling the stories of some favourite operas towards the end, and in her chattier chapters such as those on the function of the producer and designer.

"Men of Music," in The Times Literary...

(The entire section is 130 words.)

The Junior Bookshelf

Dr. Gareth goes to the East for a year leaving his wife and family behind. They are the traditional suburban family of "literature"; the odd thing is one never really meets a family like this. [In The Growing Summer] we are told it is unusual for the children to clear the table and wash up, and when they are left to their own devices in Ireland …, they put up a very poor show. What twelve year-old girl to-day is incapable of cooking anything beyond a boiled egg? The children are stereotyped, as is the "mad" great aunt with whom they are sent to stay. The story concerns this enforced visit and various adventures that befall them, but there is nothing new in the plot, we have had similar stories many times...

(The entire section is 216 words.)

Barbara Wersba

["The Magic Summer," American title of "The Growing Summer"] is a charming book, and also an empty one. Something has gone very wrong.

What has gone wrong with "The Magic Summer" is its magic. The components are promising: a manor house in Ireland, a mad old aunt and four nieces and nephews who are bundled off to her for the summer. So far, so good…. A runaway boy appears and takes up secret residence in the house, giving us hope of suspense. Here the plot falters, and we are burdened with so many pages of the children's attempts to cook and clean, iron and launder, that we begin to think that the author is more interested in home economics than fiction. This, of course, is unfair. She is trying to...

(The entire section is 196 words.)

The Junior Bookshelf

Tim, the central character [of Caldicott Place], is one of Miss Streatfeild's most attractive: he does the opposite to what the adults suggest, with excellent results. Though her old loves of stage and ballet reappear here, the author's chief theme is the adjusting to serious tragedy which can disrupt any family suddenly. Here father's car crash results in a head injury which temporarily makes him withdraw from life…. The involuntary bad behaviour of the family under the stress of moving first into a cramped flat without treasured possessions and then into the vast unfamiliar mansion is sympathetically drawn…. Tim's faith brings about his father's cure in unorthodox manner. There are some delightful smaller...

(The entire section is 161 words.)

Margery Fisher

Noel Streatfeild's characters are built on a simple principle, one dominant trait for each. The central figure of Caldicott Place … has a certain bounce and independence which come to the fore when unexpectedly he is left a huge neglected mansion…. [The] idea of a holiday home for homeless children somehow grows and comes to fruition. So we get the familiar Streatfeild situation, a group of ill-assorted children—rich, spoilt Athene, timid Freddie who is heir to a great estate, the problem child Sophie; and from the assortment come the storms and calms of a highly skilled but somehow rather cold story. Readable though it is, up to the minute in social mores, I found myself thinking back wistfully to...

(The entire section is 162 words.)

Zena Sutherland

[The Family at Caldicott Place, American title of Caldicott Place] has a few contrivances and a pat ending; it also has several situations of great appeal: the integration of the foster-children, the move to the country and the solving of accompanying financial problems, and the return of father. The most appealing aspect of the book is, however, the easy, practiced writing of Mrs. Streatfeild: her attractive and varied (some just ever-so-slightly typed comic-rural) characters, the natural flow of the writing, and the conversations that show a keen ear for dialogue.

Zena Sutherland, "New Titles for Children and Young People: 'The Family at Caldicott Place'," in...

(The entire section is 131 words.)

Margery Fisher

Noel Streatfeild has written few stories more pertinent than this study of young Harriet and her career as a champion ice-skater [White Boots]. The fierce pressure of competitions, the jealousies and contrivances, are related with quiet humour and with sympathy for children who suffer from parental ambition.

Margery Fisher, "A Pair of Ice Skates," in her Growing Point, Vol. 8, No. 6, December, 1969, p. 1452.∗

(The entire section is 62 words.)

The Times Literary Supplement

Noel Streatfeild's position in the children's book world is unique. She has had all the accolades…. Her first children's book, which has withstood the passage of time extraordinarily well, was published in 1936, the very year when the Carnegie Medal, that symbol of a new attitude towards literature for children, was first awarded. Miss Streatfeild herself has had a good deal to do with the changing attitude, and if, over this long span of time, her books have shown talent rather than genius, this does not trouble her child readers. It is we, the adults, who nowadays prefer fiction for children to be stronger and less predictable.

And Miss Streatfeild's subject-matter is easily despised. Her...

(The entire section is 407 words.)

The Junior Bookshelf

[Margaret Thursday] is a forthright, determined extrovert with a life of her own apart from the story [of Thursday's Child]. her words and actions are a constant surprise and delight, and Miss Streatfeild never makes the mistake of solving her identity, though her resounding success on the boards at the end as Little Lord Fauntleroy may be intended as a clue. The rest of the story is less successful. No doubt orphanage matrons were greedy and villainous, but the enormities come not as social revelations but as piling on the agony. No doubt countesses occasionally noticed their understaff with kindness, but the story of Margaret's friend Lavinia and her two little brothers at the orphanage, whose noble descent...

(The entire section is 148 words.)

Muriel Hutton

[Thursday's Child is a] substantial book of absorbing fiction, among so many puffed up with secondary virtues. 'After Dickens' in its wealth of incident and mosaic of chapters; focusing with varying intensity on each of four central orphans and many subsidiary characters, it has power to play upon our sentiments and on our credulity.

Muriel Hutton, "Book Reviews: 'Thursday's Child'," in The School Librarian, Vol. 19, No. 1, March, 1971, p. 73.

(The entire section is 68 words.)

Mary M. Burns

Although the setting and situations [of Thursday's Child] are in the turn-of-the-century tradition of "orphan stories," the heroine is a remarkably contemporary character whose final decision to remain independent of her would-be benefactors is logical and consistent with a fully realized personality. A fresh and sprightly addition to a perennially popular genre.

Mary M. Burns, "Spring Booklist: 'Thursday's Child'," in The Horn Book Magazine (copyright © 1971 by The Horn Book, Inc., Boston), Vol. XLVII, No. 3, June, 1971, p. 294.

(The entire section is 76 words.)

Sandra Paxford

[All Streatfeild's characters] have one thing in common—security. This security need not come from your own parents or relatives, but from someone who is with you all the time and cares about you. Indeed, they may be downright eccentric like Aunt Dymphna in The Growing Summer or matter-of-fact like the barge woman, Mrs. Smith, in Thursday's Child, sensible, practical and loving like Sylvia Brown, the children's guardian, in Ballet Shoes, or rather strait-laced, but thoroughly loyal, warm-hearted and trustworthy like Hannah, the housekeeper, in Curtain Up, but they always exist. Somewhere throughout the story, these people remain steadfast to provide the children with a measure of...

(The entire section is 605 words.)

The Times Literary Supplement

Beyond the Vicarage is the last volume of Noel Streatfeild's autobiographical trilogy. It is also probably the most significant, since it deals with her life as a writer….

Miss Streatfeild is a person to be respected. She is remarkably clear-sighted about her own shortcomings; she considers herself and her friends to have been in their youth trivial and irresponsible compared with the young people of today. She knows she is a product of her class and generations, the last generation to have maids and to be waited on. She knows too that she does not write particularly well, in the academic sense; there are sentences in this book so clumsily put together that they have to be read two or three...

(The entire section is 208 words.)

Isabel Quigly

[In 1936 came Ballet Shoes,] a children's book still loved nearly two generations later, in which [Streatfeild's] gift for immediacy and solidity was used to the full…. There was an exactly reproduced copy in it of the form needed by a twelve-year-old going on the stage, filled in for the eldest of its three heroines. There was talk about money and the exact cost of clothes for auditions, about the impossibility of paying school fees …, rooms were let to make ends meet, Nanny took a cut in wages. It was admitted that looks were a thing that counted, even at twelve. This was stark realism in the children's book world of those days, steeped in its [Arthur] Ransome, always on holiday and horseback….


(The entire section is 308 words.)

The Junior Bookshelf

[Beyond the Vicarage] is written with objectivity, using the device of writing in the third person. It is an honest book which, while it answers many of the questions readers would like to ask their favourite authors, does not pander to idle curiosity nor add personal details for effect.

The most impressive section of the book deals with the author's experiences in the war in Deptford. It is not only a vivid and moving account of what happened, but one cannot read it without realising the unassuming courage of the writer and her compassion for those who suffered so greatly. Even in these tragic situations, her wry humour and sense of the ridiculous lights up what could have been unbearable...

(The entire section is 176 words.)

Lois E. Savage

"Beyond the Vicarage" deals with surface details of a life that should be exciting and stimulating. The book is neither. Too many words are used to record incidental information about house furnishings, habits of pets, and problems with housekeepers employed for the author's mother. Such minutiae could be of interest only to neighborhood gossips, not the general public and certainly not to teenage readers.

Sections of the book which cover Miss Streatfeild's welfare work in the slums of London and her wartime experiences as a canteen worker during air raids show warmth and humor. Characterization of others is well done; description of her own career as a successful author is painfully self-conscious....

(The entire section is 134 words.)


Noel Streatfeild's Shoes books are all vocational in their themes, but they manage to avoid the heavy earnestness that generally pervades such books. The two best are Ballet Shoes and Circus Shoes….

How [Ballet Shoes] manages to be as gay as it is rests entirely with Streatfeild's ability to make everyday events somehow amusing….

For the child with a special interest in ballet or any sort of theatrical life, these books are valuable. They take a serious attitude toward professions and amplify the difficulties without minimizing the satisfactions. (p. 438)

May Hill Arbuthnot and Zena Sutherland, "Modern Fiction,"...

(The entire section is 117 words.)

Valerie Alderson

[In When the Siren Wailed] Noel Streatfeild has written about evacuees from London…. In the end, of course, everything works out all right, but there is a theatricality about the whole plot which has little to do with the real events of the period. A somewhat over-romanticised story which has none of the authenticity of books like K. Barnes's Visitors from London or Miss Streatfeild's own Children of Primrose Lane which were written at the time.

Valerie Alderson, "Reviews: 'When the Siren Wailed'," in Children's Book Review (© 1975 by Five Owls Press Ltd.; all rights reserved), Vol. V, No. 1, Spring, 1975, p. 38.

(The entire section is 100 words.)

The Junior Bookshelf

Times remembered are often only real to those with whom we remember them, and it is not easy to bring them to life for others. The children in [When the Sirens Wailed] have a sadly dated quality without the dignity of historical imagery; they seem to hover in a no-man's land between past and present.

"The New Books: 'When the Sirens Wailed'," in The Junior Bookshelf, Vol. 39, No. 2, April, 1975, p. 136.

(The entire section is 70 words.)

B. J. Martin

However young the reader of [A Young Person's Guide to Ballet], the interest can always be accompanied by awareness. I wish, therefore, that Noel Streatfeild had included more about appreciation in her otherwise excellent story of a boy and a girl learning to dance, for there are at least seven companies of varying quality regularly touring the provinces now. Her earnest desire to give, perhaps too much, purely factual information has led in several places to stilted and unnatural dialogue. Also it is difficult to believe that the children's parents (a doctor and a vet) would be hard-pressed to find the price of a theatre seat.

But these things aside, the book is sure to delight the many...

(The entire section is 183 words.)

The Junior Bookshelf

[A Young Person's Guide to Ballet] has been written with the ordinary child in mind, the one who wants to learn to dance, with the result that some ballet steps are described, so is the way lessons are run and the history of ballet, together with synopses of some ballets and histories of dancers and choreographers. There is much here to absorb and interest children, so it seems a shame that it should all have been written from such a height. It is not a fictional story, in the proper sense of the word, so one does not expect to become absorbed in the story line or the characters, but it would have made easier, more pleasant reading if one had not been aware of the writer pulling the strings from first to last....

(The entire section is 229 words.)


I wish when I were around nine or ten, someone had given me this book to read. Like all other children who dream of dancing, I was ripe for a book which viewed the ballet with wide-eyed wonder and common sense, one that could teach me about the art and make me see more clearly the work and problem sides of where my dreams would lead me.

"A Young Person's Guide To Ballet" is a down-to-earth introduction to what happens in a ballet class…. The attitude toward technique inherent in the text is an unusually sound one. And because the treatment of the male ballet student is so realistic (not overly encouraged by anyone but his teacher), this is an excellent book for a boy.


(The entire section is 369 words.)

Mary Cadogan

[In Far to Go] Noel Streatfeild skilfully conveys the stringent professionalism of the serious theatrical child: she communicates the total involvement behind the scenes and on stage that can transform even the performances of "tawdry, seedy, bad actors" into something which compels belief. She is slightly less successful, however, in sustaining a sense of period atmosphere, despite her colourful evocations of fog-swathed streets and horse-drawn cabs.

The story is slight but well structured, and lively enough to ensure a wide appeal. Its brisk pace quickens to the excitement of chase and melodrama when Margaret is abducted by the now insane ex-matron of her old orphanage…. Satisfyingly...

(The entire section is 164 words.)


The well-chaperoned child star of impeccable propriety had been a feature of American film studios as far back as the early 1900s; but it was not until the 1920s in England that the middle-class images of model child and child actress or ballet dancer began to coalesce. Noel Streatfeild was the first children's author to express the theatre's increasing social respectability … in a book which is respectable also from a literary point of view; and Ballet Shoes, which came out in 1936, remains the best example of the type of fiction which began with it—the family story with a theatrical bias.

It is appropriate that this book should use conventions of the media which provide its subject...

(The entire section is 2708 words.)

Denise M. Wilms

The happy ending Streatfeild fashions [in When the Sirens Wailed, U.S. title of When the Siren Wailed] could be called contrived, but it's satisfying—enough within the realm of possibility to be believed and certainly fitting Streatfeild's well-developed sense of the storytelling craft. (pp. 1095-96)

Denise M. Wilms, "Children's Books: 'When the Sirens Wailed'," in Booklist (reprinted by permission of the American Library Association; copyright © 1977 by the American Library Association), Vol. 73, No. 14, March 15, 1977, pp. 1095-96.

(The entire section is 76 words.)

Zena Sutherland

Some of the terminology [in When the Sirens Wailed] will be unfamiliar to readers (the wartime trains "is something chronic," a woman complains) but can usually be understood because of the context. Streatfeild's style is lively and her descriptions colorful; the characters are well-drawn and the dialogue is excellent. While the problems and fortunes of the children should engage readers, it is the atmosphere of wartime England—both in London and in the country—that gives the book its strength.

Zena Sutherland, "New Titles for Children and Young People: 'When the Sirens Wailed'," in Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (reprinted by permission of The...

(The entire section is 119 words.)

The Junior Bookshelf

After forty years in the field Noel Streatfeild, incredibly, can still tell a story with the same glow and the same sturdy common-sense beneath the sparkle. Far To Go is a sequel to Thursday's Child. Margaret Thursday, the orphan with the mysterious antecedents, is as cocky as ever and as talented….

The story is, appropriately enough, pure melodrama. This matters little, for Miss Streatfeild has always been able to turn dross into gold. The splendid heroine dominates the action and the well-drawn group of eccentrics who surround her. Surely a winner with children, both in its book form and in the television version which must surely follow.


(The entire section is 118 words.)

Margery Fisher

A Vicarage Family [is] the first of three fictionalised autobiographies … which give Noel Streatfeild's many readers, young as well as adult, an insight into the source of her material and her humour. It is risky to claim this first tale of life in an urban vicarage at the turn of the century as a source of style as well, for it is not clear whether the unmistakeable Streatfeild dialogue, the chatter for instance of the three Fossils in Ballet Shoes, was based on a genuine family mode of speech such as appears in the "story" of the vicarage which was in fact written after the early children's stories. Anyhow it is evident that Vicky, the middle sister of three, always in and out of trouble, is not only...

(The entire section is 283 words.)

Bob Dixon

Since girls in general are so severely conditioned and repressed and so turned in upon themselves, they fall victims to fantasies in consequence. In Noel Streatfeild's Ballet Shoes, the aptly named Fossils (all orphans) are brought up in a family of the three-servant-poor category (the book was first published in 1936) and go to the Children's Academy of Dancing and Stage Training. It's run by 'Madame' Fidolia who's presented as gracious, talented and immediately inspiring respect. Obviously, however, she's a person sickeningly obsessed with her own self-importance. Petrova Fossil is the tomboy. She's interested in cars and other 'masculine' pursuits. In the book, there's a never-ending concentration on dress...

(The entire section is 942 words.)


[As a child,] Ballet Shoes enveloped me. I entered the world of the three Fossils completely, sharing their classes, performances, and everyday routines. (p. 191)

The world the Fossils inhabit is very tidy and scheduled, governed by strict ideas of what is proper…. Despite its financial precariousness, their world is secure. Everyday life is the focus of the story, and we enter their world through details…. Detail is the key—clear, precise, essential. It helps create the enjoyable combination of the incredible—three orphans collected by an old eccentric and left with his young niece in a big old house—with the concrete.

Just as the daily routine is fully described,...

(The entire section is 466 words.)

Benny Green

Meanwhile, back in [Nesbitshire], nothing has changed. The parson still lives at the Rectory, whose boards are still trodden by our old pals of the Edwardian Repertory Players, the cook, the house parlour-maid, the kitchen maid and the nannie. Mummy, being an embarrassment to the plot, is shipped off to foreign parts with the obligatory dose of tuberculosis, clearing the way for the arrival of the mysterious new governess. Is she a fraud or isn't she? If so, is she a nice fraud or a nasty one? Read on and find out what happens to those five lovable juveniles the Maitlands. In Meet the Maitlands … Noel Streatfeild pulls out all the period stops; grandfathers take the waters at Baden Baden, cooks decamp and...

(The entire section is 167 words.)