Noel Streatfeild The Junior Bookshelf - Essay

The Junior Bookshelf

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

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 talented as violinist, film star and ballerina—only Myra, the eldest, seems to have been left out when the fairies distributed their gifts. She, however, discovers that her grandfather's judgment of her character is correct—her talent is for "wisdom, and being a good sister," and it is through Myra that the family become united in the end…. (pp. 269-70)

The only drawback to Miss Streatfeild's stories, I find, is that they are beginning to get a little old-fashioned. We are still in the world where there are servants and governesses, and a cosy atmosphere pervades the relationship with grandparents (one set is called "Mumsdad" and "Mumsmum"). I suppose this cannot be helped if one is writing about the kind of family Miss Streatfeild obviously knows so well but it must be a closed world to many children of today. If the television authorities are looking for modern children's books to serialise, this author's books should prove fruitful ground; they have been popular on sound radio. Why not give them new life by introducing them to a wider world? (p. 270)

"For Children from Ten to Fourteen: 'Apple Bough'," in The Junior Bookshelf, Vol. 26, No. 5, November, 1962, pp. 269-70.