Hands up if you grew up reading books about ballet and aspiring ballerinas. If you did, chances are, you have come across the "Shoes" series by Noel Streatfeild at one point of time or another.
Published in 1936, "Ballet Shoes" is a very old book. However, it has never gone out of print and I always find myself buying second hand copies to give away to little girls or friends who don't think themselves too old to be caught reading children's books. "Ballet Shoes" isn't the best children's book ever but there is something very engaging about it.
"Ballet Shoes" was Noel Streatfeild's first children's book and tells the story of Pauline, Petrova and Posey Fossil -- three orphans who are adopted by GUM (short for Great Uncle Matthew) and raised by his great-niece Sylvia. GUM disappears while travelling one day and after money runs out, the children are sent to an academy to train in acting and dancing. Pauline discovers that she has a talent for acting, Posey is handpicked for private ballet lessons, while Petrova hates it. Her passion lies with automobiles and aeroplanes.
The book is chock-full of details about acting, dancing and performing on stage back before the Second World War. Noel Streatfeild herself was an actress so she drew on her experiences when she wrote "Ballet Shoes".
Flipping through the other day, I came across this passage which made me laugh. Don't you love discovering how long some products have been around for?
"... They followed the directions and tapped timidly on the make-up man's door. He called out cheerfully 'Come in'. He seemed to be expecting Pauline, because he wrapped her up in towels without a word, and rubbed some cream into her face before asking who she was.
" 'You're the little girl, aren't you?' he said at last, 'playing in the Shakespeare with Mr Houghton?'
" 'That's right,' Pauline agreed. 'But I can make myself up, you know.'
" 'In the theatre, yes,' agreed the man. 'For the pictures, no. You use grease-paints, don't you?'
" 'A little,' Pauline said. 'Number five with a little eight for the background and...'
"But the man was not interested in what Pauline used for her face on stage; instead he held up a tube.
" 'But I use Max Factor, and that's different.'
"It was different, Pauline found. Instead of a stick of grease-paint, it was a paste which was massaged into the skin and allowed to dry on. When he has finished with her, her face looked most unlike itself, and she did not think much of it; but she thanked him politely, and asked where she should go next. He told her to go back to her room, and she would be sent for."