Essential Modern Classics
Pages: 288 pages
Finished: June 29, 2010
First Published: 1951 (ESM Edition, 2008)
Publisher: Harper Collins UK
Genre: children, realistic fiction
Even when the last of the medicine bottles were cleared away and she was supposed to have "had" convalescence, Harriet did not get well.
Acquired: Received a review copy from Harper Collins Canada.
Reason for Reading: This book is published under the Essential Modern Classics list. This is a list of books chosen by the publisher's UK house and is a collection of outstanding books for children. From looking at the titles I'd say the age range varies anywhere from 8 to 15. I think the authors chosen present a unique collection for North American readers to discover. I intend to be keeping up-to-date with ESM as well as digging into their backlist.
As part of the Essential Modern Classics series the book starts with an informative paragraph bio. of the author followed by an essay entitled "Why You'll Love This Book" written by a famous author, in this case Cathy Cassidy. Then a quick blurb on just who is Cathy Cassidy. This publisher's series also sometimes end with extra material at the back of the book called "More Than A Story". Here it is very interesting and relevant to the book, though a bit aimed at UK citizens. First is a marvelous essay by William Streatfeild (Noel's nephew) who relates information about the author and the writing of this book in particular. Then a Did You Know? section with info. on the book and the author. This is followed by skating information: a list of skating firsts, skating jumps along with who and when they were invented, an explanation of Figure, Speed and Short Track Speed skating. Then comes the UK information with a list of British Skating Champs and information on places and resources to get started info which is finally followed by a British list of matching the athlete with the sport. All this certainly makes this edition an especially nice one to have.
As to the story, absolutely wonderful. If you are an adult female you probably already know the pure joy of reading Streatfeild and this is the first time I've gone back to read her since I was a kid. I hadn't read this book before. Oh, the absolute agony and romance of the poor recuperating sick child whose legs are all "cotton-woolish" from having been bedridden for so long, but now that the doctor order's exercise there isn't much Harriet can do in London as they don't have suitable relations in the country and can't afford to send her anywhere; they are very poor. The doctor suggests skating as one of his patients owns the local rink and manages to get her in free, and her brother Alec takes up a paper route to pay for the skates rental. On her first day there Harriet meets Lalla Moore who has been training to become a championship skater, just like her late father, since she was three. Thus Harriet and Lalla become friends each entering the other's life and finding what was missing in their own. Lalla gains a family, love, people who don't fawn over her, but make her feel like she belongs anyway. Harriet gains an education she could never have afforded otherwise which not only includes a tutor but skating lessons from a famous teacher, fencing lessons, ballet lessons and new clothes that Nana knits especially for her; it isn't materialistic for Harriet though as she loves the governess and Nanna and simply worships Lalla. The world has become heaven for both girls until the time comes when Lalla is having problems progressing with her skating; her aunt is determined she shall follow in her father's footsteps. At the same time Harriet seems to be shining with her skating and the teacher wants her to start taking the tests, he thinks she has that something ...
A lovely book that I pretty much read in a day. It's one I couldn't put down. It has all the elements that can make a girl just fall into a book. A weak convalescing girl, a rich glamorous girl, an orphan, a poor family that has to eat whatever Uncle William sends them (which can be very strange and poor offerings indeed), an evil aunt, a boy and a girl with dreams who follow them and work hard to make them come true, a girl who is forced to live another's dream until she is finally saved in the end. The book is also about friendship, envy, jealousy, sacrifice and a large family's way of never letting anyone become too big for their boots. Though the book does revolve around skating, one does not need to be a fan of the sport, no one could care less about it than I do (a non-skater who does not enjoy any competitive sports in any shape or form) but on the other hand the book would be the perfect gift for a figure skating fan. The book is available in the US under the title Skating Shoes in a different edition. Though I do highly recommend the Essential Modern Classics edition which can be purchased by Americans at the link above including free shipping.