What’s it all about?:
Pauline, Petrova and Posy are orphans determined to help out their new family by joining the Children’s Academy of Dancing and Stage Training. But when they vow to make a name for themselves, they have no idea it’s going to be such hard work! They launch themselves into the world of show business, complete with working papers, the glare of the spotlight, and practice, practice, practice! Pauline is destined for the movies. Posy is a born dancer. But practical Petrova finds she’d rather pilot a plane than perform a pirouette. Each girl must find the courage to follow her dream.
What did I think?:
When this book was first published in 1936, it was considered quite ground-breaking. It was the first children’s book to do many things – the first to be set at a stage school, the first to feature ballet in London and the first to feature children who become self-reliant rather than referring to adults when things go slightly wrong. This book appears to have passed me by as a child and we decided to feature it on this years Kid-Lit list because of the number of positive reviews and because Chrissi has a particular fondness for books that involve dance in some way. However, I found myself having quite mixed opinions about the story and am slightly disappointed that I didn’t connect with it in a way that others obviously have.
The book features three little girls that have had quite a peculiar upbringing. They were brought to England and adopted as babies by a man they know as GUM (aka Great Uncle Matthew) who originally collected fossils but was told on no uncertain terms by his housekeeper that there was no room to store any more. The girls are raised as sisters by his niece Sylvia (whom the girls call Garnie as short for Guardian) and her old nanny and give themselves the surname Fossil as homage to GUM.
While he is away working for an unstated number of years the children are entered into a stage school after each discovers they have individual talents. Pauline is a marvellous actress, Posy can dance beautifully and Petrova is highly intelligent although not sure she really fits in anywhere and would rather be fiddling with a car or flying an aeroplane. The book follows their lives and their experiences as they grow up and as GUM’s money that he left for their upbringing starts to dry up, features the children working themselves to make ends meet and vowing each year to make their names in history to repay GUM, Garnie and Nana for all their kindness.
There were parts of this book that I thoroughly enjoyed. Like a lot of children’s books written around this time, it has a certain flavour or rather, nostalgia when you’re reading it that makes you feel quite warm inside and comfortable. This was certainly the case on a number of occasions for me. It’s lovely to read a book that takes you back to a time when things were a lot simpler and everyone knows where they stand. Saying that, after a little while of reading, I did start to become a little restless. Everything meanders along quite swimmingly in the narrative, but it didn’t really feel for me like the story went anywhere – there was no real excitement, thrilling occurrences or huge character development and it did feel that there was so much potential for that to happen and it was all just lost.
I did love the characters, especially their independence and ambition and appreciated the feminist viewpoint that must have been quite original in those times but…. by the end of the book, I just felt slightly disappointed by it all. This book has a lot of positives and I think children who love the idea of stage school or dancing will enjoy it but for me it just left a couple of boxes unticked which was a shame. My rating below is based on the quality of the writing and the first half of the novel which showed a lot of promise and strength.
For Chrissi’s fabulous review, please visit her blog HERE.
Would I recommend it?:
Star rating (out of 5):