Noel Streatfeild The Junior Bookshelf - Essay

The Junior Bookshelf

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

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 can do! The hallmark of her best work is its accuracy, the first hand authenticity of the background detail. New Town is sketchy in the extreme. What an odd new town it is, in setting and in administration! It may be argued that without this oddness the story falls down; Miss Streatfeild, however, knows better than anyone that the good writer does not make his setting fit his plot.

A disconcerting feature of this book is the unconventional syntax and punctuation. Miss Streatfeild may feel that she can afford to write as she likes. Her readers however are of an age to learn to write themselves; they may well choose her as their stylistic model, and the style of New Town is not the key to success …!

"For Children from Ten to Fourteen: 'New Town'," in The Junior Bookshelf, Vol. 24, No. 3, July, 1960, p. 165.