Noel Streatfeild Ellen Lewis Buell - Essay

Ellen Lewis Buell

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

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 enough to tell them apart, for each one is an individual in his or her own right. The Heath family, all told, is well worth knowing….

Susan and Jim played [tennis] as they did everything else, seriously, dutifully, and more than capably. The account of their prowess is interesting and amusing when set off against their very English dread of being noticed, but it is Nicky, cheeky and arrogant, who really holds one's attention….

[The] account of the children's training, the strict discipline in manners and character as well as technique, will hold the attention of any youngster who ever swung a racquet and for those less sportily inclined the clashes of temperament in the Heath household will furnish ample entertainment. Miss Streatfeild writes in a deceptively simple style which is as forthright as a schoolgirl's theme and as effective as a good fast serve.

Ellen Lewis Buell, "New Books for Younger Readers: 'Tennis Shoes'," in The New York Times Book Review (© 1938 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), July 10, 1938, p. 10.