‘Completely Wonderful’: Noel Streatfeild’s Ballet Shoes

(JANIFEST/Getty Images) A classic tale of three orphaned sisters training for the stage brings a bygone era vividly to life.

Meg Ryan was speaking my language. Here I was, watching a silly rom-com (You’ve Got Mail), and the lead character started giving advice on children’s books. What could be better? Well, perhaps the fact that she recommended Noel Streatfeild’s beloved “Shoe” books, the first of which, Ballet Shoes, is near and dear to my heart.

Pauline, Petrova, and Posy Fossil are sisters, though rather unconventional ones. Pauline’s parents drowned at sea, Petrova’s parents died under harsh conditions in Russia, and Posy’s mother couldn’t care for her. All three were found and adopted as babies by Great-Uncle Matthew, affectionately known as “Gum.” Gum, however, is a paleontologist, and an adventurous one at that. His explorations may lead to the finding of our young heroines, but his constant, prolonged absences mean that their care falls to his long-suffering niece, Sylvia, and her ever-practical nurse, Nana.

“We three Fossils vow to try and put our name in history books,” swear the three girls when they are young, “because it’s our very own and nobody can say it’s because

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