White Boots by Noel Streatfeild

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White Boots by Noel Streatfeild

Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Ruth Ng
Reviewed by Ruth Ng
Summary: One of my childhood favourites! A great depiction of family dynamics, and an engaging story.
Buy? yes Borrow? yes
Pages: 288 Date: October 2015
Publisher: Harper Collins Children's Books
ISBN: 9780007580460

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Many moons ago, when I was a young girl obsessed with Torvill and Dean and wishing we lived much closer to a skating rink, I discovered Noel Streatfeild's wonderful Shoe stories including this one, White Boots. It soon became one of my favourite re-reads, so it was interesting to come back to the story as a grown up and find that it is still funny and engaging, all these years later, and that it still has the enduring power to make me wish for my own pair of white skating boots too!

Harriet has been ill, and during her recovery the Doctor recommends that she try ice-skating, to help her legs feel less cotton-woolish. Harriet's family don't have much spare money, so her brother comes up with a plan to get a part time job delivering newspapers so that Harriet can use the money from that to go ice skating. This is already one of my favourite parts of this story - that her family rally together in order to allow Harriet to go skating. Her brother doesn't even hesitate to offer to help, and although there will only be a tiny amount of money left for him to use himself he is happy to help. It turns out that even that small amount that is left over he plans to invest in his family's shop, to try and boost their income! So, Harriet is able to go skating and it is there at the rink that she meets a little girl called Lalla who is about to change her life in unimaginable ways!

Although this book is over sixty years old, and there are references to old money, and woollen knickers that age the story, it remains a wonderful read because the characters are so well drawn, so endearing and lovely and, by times, infuriating, and the humour stands the test of time. I particularly like the depiction of Harriet's family, of the gentle teasing that goes on amongst the children, and also the clear bond and love between them. It is easy to see why Lalla, the spoilt only child, falls in love with Harriet's family too, and why she craves their friendship and acceptance. The story well written, so although the pace is quite slow by some modern standards I found the gentle progression was engaging and enjoyable as you just enjoy the moments as they happen, seeing Harriet grow and develop in her skating, showing more promise and dedication than Lalla, and wondering about the effect this will have on both girls, and if their friendship will survive.

Lalla's Aunt Claudia is the villain of the piece, though reading it as a grown up you can at least understand where her villainy comes from! She's another well drawn character, as you find yourself stressed on Lalla and Harriet's behalf about how Aunt Claudia will react to the various events through the story, and whether she will discover the various secrets and plots and plans that the children (and some of the grown ups!) make behind her back. Lalla's Nana is wonderfully kind and no-nonsense, and her governess is insightful throughout. They are all very 'real' characters, and they go towards creating a well-rounded story.

My only quibble with this lovely book is the ending. I think as child I must have reimagined the ending as it wasn't how I'd remembered it at all! I do like Harriet's progression in skating and the fact that she becomes the more technically able skater, but I had remembered things differently for Lalla, and I found I was disappointed that we didn't get to see more of how Harriet's brothers fared in their market garden ventures. It's still a very good read, but I did feel a little dissatisfied with the end. This would suit confident girls aged around 8 and older, though you could read it as a chapter a day bedtime story for younger and less confident readers.

Further reading suggestion: Another in the shoe series to try is Ballet Shoes or for another very re-readable book try Binny for Short by Hilary McKay.

Buy White Boots by Noel Streatfeild at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy White Boots by Noel Streatfeild at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy White Boots by Noel Streatfeild at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy White Boots by Noel Streatfeild at Amazon.com.


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Sue said:

I remember woollen knickers. But not with affection.