Skating to the top

As a child I loved Noel Streatfeild's books, and read as many of them as I could lay my hands on. For some reason however, I missed out on one of her most famous novels, White Boots (published as Skating Shoes in the States).

White Boots tells the story of Harriet, brought up in a family that has fallen on hard times. Harriet has been ill, and is advised by her doctor to take up skating to strengthen her legs. On arrival at the rink, Harriet meets Lalla, a child from a wealthy family, the daughter of a champion skater, and a champion in training herself. Harriet and Lalla, in spite of the difference in their backgrounds, become fast friends, but when Harriet proves to be a talented skater herself, there is trouble in the air.

Well, I'm glad that I finally got around to reading it. It's a fun read, and I'm sure many young girls (even in the twenty-first century) would thoroughly enjoy it. Although written in the 1950s, it is in many ways a real throw-back in time. Lalla has a nanny and a governess, and much of the plot, and actions of the girls and their families are completely interchangeable with Streatfeild's earlier classic Ballet Shoes, first published in 1936. Going into the 1950s some of the old-fashioned attitudes do seem rather strange, and its likeness to Ballet shoes does make it feel rather formulaic. However this likeness may actually be appealing to many children who just want more of the same. Another fault for me personally was that I felt that the ending was slightly abrupt - it would have been good to have finished with more success for Harriet, instead of being left at such an early stage of her career.

However it's a book that many children have loved and will continue to love. Old fashioned Streatfeild may be, but there's also a curiously timeless quality about her work that you can't help enjoying.


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