Noel Streatfeild Carolyn Heilbrun - Essay

Carolyn Heilbrun

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

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." This novel, like "Ballet Shoes," demonstrates, without platitudes or sanctimony, that to have a talent is to be blessed; that to love is to choose to give; that, as is evident to any child with proper parents, to be born is less satisfying than to be found on a doorstep and welcomed, on somewhat equal terms, into a world of adults more kith than kin.

Perhaps the incidents crowd in a bit toward the end of this tale, as life for children has lately become more eventful. But the 27 years which have changed me from a middle-aged child to a middle-aged woman have not, as this book makes clear, wearied Miss Streatfeild at all.

Carolyn Heilbrun, "Books for Young Readers: 'The Children on the Top Floor'," in The New York Times Book Review (© 1965 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), March 21, 1965, p. 26.