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Noel Streatfeild

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Updated 21st July, 2011.

Harriet's comprehensive NOEL STREATFEILD site
TITLES -
Date of Publication order
TITLES -
Alphabetical order
SERIES -
Reading order
Emily's synopses
Biographies

Special thanks
to
Jo Robins, Pat Bland, Sue Tredrea, Charlotte Simon,
 Lizardnorcross for information and scans and Emily for the synopses.

"The Whicharts" has just been republished in a complete and unabridged 
paperback edition by Margin Notes Books.  

Noel Streatfeild was born on Christmas Eve, 1895, the daughter of William Champion Streatfeild and Janet Venn. Noel was the second of six children to be born to the couple who had married two years earlier. Ruth was the elder while after Noel came Barbara, William ('Bill'), Joyce (who died of TB prior to her second birthday) and Richenda.

"Noel was descended from generations of devout Christians, ... Her father, and both her grandfathers, were Anglican clergymen; and, among her more distant ancestors, there were, on her mother's side, the Rev Henry Venn, who founded the Church Missionary Society, and the Rev John Venn, a leader of the Clapham Sect, which campaigned for the abolition of slavery; while, on her father's side, there was her great-great-grandmother, Elizabeth Fry, the famous prison reformer." pp 9-10 Angela Bull Noel Streatfeild: A Biography

During the Great War Noel worked firstly as a volunteer in a soldier's hospital kitchen near Eastbourne Vicarage and later produced a play entitled 'Vingt-et-Un', a two-act fairy tale by Lucy and Virginia Wintle, in aid of the Red Cross. Apparently she also appeared and sang in this play. This encouraged her to produce and once again appear in a further play, 'When Daydreams End'. This was described in the programme as 'A Phantasy in Three Acts by Noel Streatfeild'. When things took a turn for the worse on the Front in 1916 she moved to London and obtained a job making munitions in Woolwich Arsenal. It wasn't uncommon for her to work 12-hour shifts.

Following war's end she determined to be an actress so in January, 1919, enrolled at the Academy of Dramatic Art (later Royal Academy) in London. It wasn't too long before she began to appear on the stage but seems to have had a bad experience on her first overseas tour to South Africa in 1926. Noel then turned to writing, doing a correspondence course before leaving for a further overseas tour in October, 1928, this time to Australia. On17th February, 1929, while she was still in Australia, Noel's father died of a sudden heart attack.

Noel's first novel, 'The Wicharts', was published in 1931 and she began carrying out social work as member of Deptford Voluntary Child Care. The members of this organisation attended school, medical and dental inspections. This was followed up by visits to the children's homes in order to convince the parents to have the prescribed treatments carried out. Soon she took on public speaking, asking listeners to show their support for the various London child care committees.

It was in 1936 that Mabel Carey, recently appointed children's editor for the publisher, Dent, asked Noel to pen a children's book about the theatre. By this time Noel was busy on many projects. These included eight plays for children, collectively called 'The Children's Matinee' and another play, 'Wisdom Teeth', which was going into rehearsal at the Everyman Theatre. The latter was of a more serious nature, designed to shock with its two themes of divorce and drugs. Ballet began to interest Noel, especially when she was in the audience at Eastbourne Pier of 'Ninette de Valois - 1913' put on by Lila Field's Little Wonders.

They brought a new star, born Edris Stannus, and "although Ruth and Noel knew nothing about her, she was from a background which the Streatfeilds would have found quite socially acceptable, for she was the daughter of an army officer, with a background of Irish landed gentry. Like Ruth and Noel, she had begun dancing in a decorous private class, but she had not been satisfied. In spite of the opposition of her teacher, who had the inevitable horror of professional dancers, she had insisted on going to Lila Field's academy for a proper training. Later she was to be known to the world as Ninette de Valois." p.51 Angela Bull Noel Streatfeild: A Biography

"... Ninette de Valois was given the gift to open another child's eyes to the beauty of movement allied to wonderful music. Her dancing of the swan was to me[Noel Streatfeild] perfection, and when you have the good fortune to see perfection, it changes your life." p.52 Angela Bull Noel Streatfeild: A Biography

With the death of Diaghileff in 1929, and that of Pavlova in January 1931, Ballet seemed at a loss for direction, purpose and without leadership. Russian exiles Nicholas Legat and Enrico Cecchetti had both arrived and settled in England, and went on to train Ninette de Valois and Serafina Astafieva, who in turn taught Alicia Markova. "When, in 1931, Ninette de Valois persuaded Lilian Baylis of the Old Vic Theatre to join her in founding the Sadler's Wells Ballet School and the Vic-Wells Ballet Company, there were just enough British dancers to make this frail new venture a success, and Markova was ready to dance the leading roles." p.132 Angela Bull Noel Streatfeild: A Biography

In 1933 another ballet company, the Ballets Russe de Monte Carlo, took London by storm. Founded by Colonel de Basil in an attempt to revive the Diaghileff ballet, it included among its stars Irina Baonova, Tamara Toumanova and Tatiana Riabouchinska -
"...a trio of enchanting dancers, still in their early teens, and known as 'de Basil's Babes.' All three had acquired an amazing technique from teachers of the old Russian tradition, and were well able to interpret the taxing classical roles." p.133 Angela Bull Noel Streatfeild: A Biography

According to Angela Bull, 'Ballet Shoes' was a reworked version of 'The Whicharts'. Elder sister Ruth Gervis illustrated the book which was published on the 28th September, 1936. At the time, the plot and general 'attitude' of the book was highly original, and destined to provide an outline for countless other ballet books down the years until this day. The first known book to be set at a stage school, the first ballet story to be set in London, the first to feature upper middle class society, the first to show the limits of amateurism and possibly the first to show children as self-reliant, able to survive without running to grownups when things went wrong.

In 1939 Noel received the Carnegie gold medal for 'The Circus is Coming' for 'a distinguished contribution to children's literature' from the Library Association.

The Second World War once more brought out Noel's selfless attitude. She took on an air raid warden position with Westminster City Council Civil Defence and often made visits to London's southern areas in order to help organise Civil Defence and the evacuation of families away from the city. She was also involved with organising the Mobile Canteen Service for people in Deptford shelters via the WVS while carrying out recruiting drives in order to bring forward volunteers for the Housewives Service. On the 10th May, 1941, she arrived home to find her building demolished by a bomb. Meanwhile, brother Bill and his family who were living in Siam (now Thailand) at the time the Japanese took over the country, arrived home, having been interned until 1942. Other tasks Noel took on included raising contributions for RN libraries, organising salvage collecting, running children's parties in Deptford and editing the WVS magazine.

 

In June, 1946, Noel marched in the Victory Parade with the WVS contingent, having along with all her other wartime jobs, authored 4 adult novels, 5 children's books, 9 Susan Scarlett stories, a diary, multiple WVS newsletters, numerous short stories and newspaper articles, plays, radio scripts and book reviews.

In early 1968, Noel suffered a serious stroke in her sleep which left her paralysed down her left side with speech loss. Despite this, she managed an almost complete recovery after much work with physiotherapists and speech therapists. Sadly, a series of small strokes in the latter half of 1979 resulted in her moving into a nursing home. Her contributions to Literature and England were recognised in the New Years Honours List 1983 when she was awarded the Order of the British Empire [O.B.E.].

Noel Streatfeild passed away on September 11, 1986. #

First published 50 years ago,
White Boots
has now been reprinted.

Titles in date of publication order

The Whicharts 1931
Parson’s Nine 1932
Tops and Bottoms 1933
The Children’s Matinee 1934
Shepherdess of Sheep 1934
It Pays to be Good 1936
Ballet Shoes 1936
Tennis Shoes 1937
Caroline England 1937
The Circus is Coming // Circus Shoes 1938
Luke 1939
Dennis the Dragon 1939
The House in Cornwall 1940
The Winter is Past 1940
The Children of Primrose Lane 1941

I Ordered a Table for Six 1942
Harlequinade 1943
Myra Carroll 1944
Curtain Up also published as - Theater[sic] Shoes & Other People’s Shoes 1944
Saplings 1945
Party Frock  // Party Shoes 1946
Grass in Piccadilly 1947
The Painted Garden // Movies Shoes 1949
Osbert 1950

Mothering Sunday 1950
The Years of Grace 1950
White Boots  // Skating Shoes 1951
The Picture Story of Britain 1951
Aunt Clara 1952
The Fearless Treasure 1953
By Special Request 1953
The First book of Ballet 1953
The Bell Family // The Story of the Bell Family & Family Shoes 1954
Growing Up Gracefully 1955
Judith 1956
The Day Before Yesterday 1956
The Grey Family 1956
Wintle’s Wonders  //  Dancing Shoes 1957
Magic and the Magician 1958
The First Book of England 1958
Bertram 1959
The Royal Ballet School 1959
Noel Streatfeild’s Ballet Annual 1959
The January Baby, The February Baby, etc. 1959
Look at the Circus 1960

New Town 1960 (Pub'd as 'New Shoes' in the US.)
The Silent Speaker 1961
Apple Bough // Travelling Shoes 1962
Lisa Goes to Russia 1963
A Vicarage Family 1963
The First Book of Ballet 1963
Confirmation and After 1963
The Children on the Top Floor 1964
Away From the Vicarage
1965
Let’s go Coaching 1965
The Thames 1966
Enjoying Opera 1966
The Growing Summer  //  The Magic Summer 1966
Old Chairs to Mend 1966
Before Confirmation 1967
Caldicott Place //  The Family at Caldicott Place 1967
Nicholas 1968
The Barrow Lane Gang 1968
Gemma 1968
Gemma and Sisters 1968
Gemma Alone 1969
Goodbye Gemma 1969
Thursday’s Child 1970
Beyond the Vicarage 1971
Boy Pharaoh, Tutankhamen 1972
Ballet Shoes for Anna 1972
The Noel Streatfeild Summer Holiday Book 1973
The Noel Streatfeild Christmas Holiday Book 1973
When the Siren Wailed 1974
The Noel Streatfeild Easter Holiday Book 1974
A Young Person’s Guide to Ballet 1975
Gran-Nannie 1976
Far to Go 1976
The Noel Streatfeild Birthday Story Book 1976
The Noel Streatfeild Weekend Story Book 1977
Meet the Maitlands  // The Maitlands 1978

Where // appears followed by another title this book was published under both titles, the date is for the one listed first.

Noel Streatfeild also wrote 12 full-length novels under the pen name Susan Scarlett. These were romantic pot-boilers and are considered to be very much inferior to her serious novels.

Titles in alphabetical order

Apple Bough // Travelling Shoes 1962
Aunt Clara 1952
Away From the Vicarage 1965
Ballet Shoes 1936
Ballet Shoes for Anna 1972
Barrow Lane Gang, The 1968
Before Confirmation 1967
Bell Family, The // Story of Bell Family & Family Shoes 1954
Bertram 1959
Beyond the Vicarage 1971
Boy Pharaoh, Tutankhamen 1972
By Special Request 1953
Caldicott Place //  The Family at Caldicott Place 1967
Caroline England 1937
Children of Primrose Lane, The 1941
Children on the Top Floor, The 1964
Children's Matinee, The 1934
Circus is Coming, The // Circus Shoes 1938
Confirmation and After 1963
Curtain Up also published as - Theater[sic] Shoes & Other People's Shoes 1944
Day Before Yesterday, The 1956
Dennis the Dragon 1939
Enjoying Opera 1966
Far to Go 1976
Fearless Treasure, The 1953
First book of Ballet, The 1953
First Book of England, The 1958
First Book of Ballet, The 1963
Gemma 1968
Gemma and Sisters 1968
Gemma Alone 1969
Goodbye Gemma 1969
Gran-Nannie 1976
Grass in Piccadilly 1947
Grey Family, The 1956
Growing Up Gracefully 1955
Growing Summer, The  // Magic Summer, The 1966
Harlequinade 1943
House in Cornwall, The 1940
I Ordered a Table for Six 1942
It Pays to be Good 1936
January Baby, The February Baby, etc. 1959
Judith 1956
Let's go Coaching 1965
Lisa Goes to Russia 1963
Look at the Circus 1960
Luke 1939
Magic and the Magician 1958
Meet the Maitlands  // The Maitlands 1978
Mothering Sunday 1950
Myra Carroll 1944
New Town 1960 (Pub'd as 'New Shoes' in the US.)
Nicholas 1968
Noel Streatfeild's Ballet Annual 1959
Noel Streatfeild Summer Holiday Book, The 1973
Noel Streatfeild Christmas Holiday Book, The 1973
Noel Streatfeild Easter Holiday Book, The 1974
Noel Streatfeild Birthday Story Book, The 1976
Noel Streatfeild Weekend Story Book, The 1977
Old Chairs to Mend 1966
Painted Garden // Movies Shoes, the 1949
Parson's Nine 1932
Party Frock  // Party Shoes 1946
Picture Story of Britain, The 1951
Royal Ballet School, The 1959
Saplings 1945
Shepherdess of Sheep 1934
Silent Speaker, The 1961
Tennis Shoes 1937
Thames, The 1966
Thursday's Child 1970
Tops and Bottoms 1933
Vicarage Family, A1963
When the Siren Wailed 1974
Whicharts, The 1931
White Boots  // Skating Shoes 1951
Winter is Past, The 1940
Wintle's Wonders  //  Dancing Shoes 1957
Years of Grace, The 1950
Young Person's Guide to Ballet, A 1975

Biographies
BULL, Angela   Noel Streatfeild: A Biography 1984
HUSE, Nancy   Noel Streatfeild 1994

Series in reading order

A Vicarage Family: A Biography of Myself
Away From The Vicarage
Beyond The Vicarage
Gran-Nannie

The Bell Family // Story of the Bell Family // Family Shoes
New Town

Thursday’s Child
Far To Go

Ballet Shoes
Curtain Up
The Painted Garden

Gemma
Gemma and Sisters
Gemma Alone
Goodbye Gemma

EMILY'S SYNOPSES

Apple Bough
Sebastian Forum is a child prodigy, a wonder on the violin. He has toured the world for years, and his family, mother, father, Myra, Wolfgang, and Ethel, went with him. Now the children have decided they have had enough of travelling, and they want their own home. There is only one problem - their parents are convinced that they love touring! / Apple Bough, their old house in England, is the children's idea of a perfect home. That was sold when they began touring, but anywhere would do - just a place of their own, where everything stays where they put it down. / So "Operation Home" begins.

Ballet Shoes
Adopted as babies by Gum, Pauline, Petrova and Posy Fossil are fairly ordinary children until they are accepted as charity pupils at the Children's Academy of Dancing and Stage Training. / Gum has been overseas for years, and the money he left Garnie and Nana for the children's upkeep is running out. The children vow to earn money to help Garnie, but find it hard to keep their vow.

Ballet Shoes for Anna
Francesco, Gussie and Anna are left orphans when an earthquake destroys their home. Brought up entirely in Asia, they find living with their stodgy English uncle and aunt extremely difficult. The worst part is, Uncle Cecil refuses to let Anna have ballet lessons. But Anna has talent, and she must dance. So the boys set out to earn the money for her lessons, causing plenty of havoc along the way!

The Bell Family
Jane Bell badly wanted to train at Sadler's Wells ballet school, but there was no money to pay for lessons. Paul's ambition to be a doctor - though his grandfather would pay him to join the family business. Angus wants to have a private zoo - and Ginnie's only desire is not to catch the mumps!

The Circus is Coming
When Peter and Santa's aunt, who is caring for them, dies, they go to live with their Uncle Gus. Gus works in a circus, as a trapeze artiste and an auguste. The children are fascinated by the circus life, but find it hard to settle in - their aunt had brought them up to be dreadful snobs!

Curtain Up
When the Forbes children's grandfather dies, they are sent to live with their mother's mother, in London. Their mother came from a famous acting family, and Sorrel, Mark and Holly are expected to become actors too. They are sent to Madame Fidolia's Children's Academy of Dancing and Stage Training, the same school Pauline, Petrova and Posy Fossil went to. Although the Fossils are grown up and far away, they become the Forbes children's friends.

Gemma
Gemma Bow is a child movie star, but she has not had a job for over a year. Now her mother has been asked to take a role in an American movie, and Gemma is being sent to live with her cousins, the Robinsons. Gemma is appalled! An ordinary family in an ordinary house in an ordinary town? She even has to go to an ordinary school!

Gemma and Sisters
Gemma and the Robinsons' charity show act is a great success! Everyone loves Gemma and Sisters! But then disaster strikes. Lydia has an accident and dislocates her hip. This could be the end of Gemma and Sisters. Worse still, it could be the end of Lydia's dancing.

Goodbye Gemma
Gemma is very happy in Headstone, with the Robinsons. Especially now that she is to play Juliet, with a very exciting Romeo! So her mother's letter is a bombshell. Rowena is coming home, and she wants Gemma to come and live with her!

The Grey Family
No one had ever seen a particular talent in Polly. But one day she begins dancing in the street, and Madame Blom, who runs a ballet school, sees her. Polly must have lessons - but how? The Greys can't afford extras like dancing. So Edward, Sarah, and Bill decide to raise the money.

The Growing Summer
The Gareths are a very ordinary, happy London family. That is, until their father goes to the Far East and falls ill - very ill. Their mother immediately flies out to look after him, and Alex, Penny, Robin and Naomi are sent to live with Great-Aunt Dymphna in Ireland. Great-Aunt Dymphna eats toadstools, wears a big black cloak, and answers questions by quoting poetry - she must be a witch. Great-Aunt Dymphna also believes that children should be able to look after themselves, and the children find themselves cooking, cleaning, and even buying their own food. / If that wasn't enough, there's Stephan. He is a sickly-looking boy, who says he is from a Communist country. He says that he is in danger, so the Gareths help him to hide, but he make things very difficult by constantly complaining. / One way and another, this will be a holiday they will never forget!

The Painted Garden
A holiday in California? Sounds wonderful? Not to the Winter children. Rachel has just got her first real professional part as a dancer in a musical. Tim has been offered free piano lessons by the famous Jeremy Caulder. And Jane? Jane just doesn't want to leave Chewing-Gum, her dog. But to California they must go - like it or not!

Party Frock
It is 1944, near the end of World War 2. Selina's godmother in America has sent her a beautiful party frock, but with the War still on, there is no occasion she can wear it for. To give her an opportunity to wear it, Selina and her cousins plan a pageant. At first only forty or fifty people are involved, but suddenly they have a real producer and whole villages! Where will it all stop?

Thursday's Child
Margaret Thursday hates the orphanage. Matron is mean, mean, mean! But if she ran away, where would she run to? Besides, she promised Lavinia to look after Peter and Horatio. Still, Margaret has no intention of remaining a nobody long. With a history like hers, she must be someone special!

When the Siren Wailed
When Laura, Andy, and Tim are sent to the country during the Blitz, the tough London kids soon learn to love living with the Colonel and the Elks. When their new world suddenly falls apart, what will they do?

White Boots
Harriet is a poor London child, who took up skating for her health. Lalla is rich, the daughter of a famous figure skater, and following in her father's footsteps. United by their skating, the two girls become fast friends. Could anything destroy their friendship?

Wintle's Wonders
Rachel and Hilary Lennox are not really sisters. Hilary was adopted, but they feel as if they were sisters, even though they are so different. Rachel is awkward, shy, and has no particular talent that anyone can see. Hilary is pretty, out-going, and has a talent for ballet. / When Rachel's mother dies, the girls are sent to live with their uncle and his wife, who runs a dancing school. The school trains children to be Mrs Wintle's Little Wonders, who dance in troupes in stage productions like pantomimes. Rachel's awful cousin Dulcie is the star of the school, and is jealous of Hilary. / The school sounds good, but Rachel discovers that ballet is only a small part of the dancing taught. Mostly, they do tap, acrobatics, and things like that, which producers like. Hilary loves it, but Rachel is appalled. She is determined that Hilary must have proper lessons, but no one will listen to her, not even Hilary!

 

 

 

From: Lizardnorcross - New Town was also published as "New Shoes" (U.S.) in case you wanted to mention that on the Noel Streatfeild website. Thanks!

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