Noel Streatfeild (1895 – 1986) was born in Amberley, Sussex, the second daughter of a clergyman. Her older sister was pretty and delicate, her younger sister clever and beautiful - Noel saw herself as the plain one and made her mark by being quite rebellious. She always shone in the plays she and her sisters put on for her father’s parish causes. She worked in a munitions factory during World War I and after the war went off to train as an actress. Her ten years on the stage were not very successful but they gave her valuable knowledge of theatre life to use later in her books.
Noel claimed to have a ‘blotting paper memory’ that was the secret of her success as a writer. She could think herself back into childhood and recall the delights of pets and holidays and Christmas – as well as the miseries of being snubbed, overlooked and excluded. She wrote 58 books for children; many are still in print, including her most popular title Ballet Shoes. In her best books the reader has the experience of living intensely with the child characters, understanding exactly how they feel about things, and why -–perhaps this is why her books still seem alive to young readers 50 years after they were written.
Noel Streatfeild was astonished by the success of Ballet Shoes, her first book for children. Its acclaim was perhaps due to its originality. She wrote about hard-working, money-conscious, professional children unlike the amateurish, country-house heroes and heroines of most children’s stories of the time. The Fossil sisters in Ballet Shoes are lively, well-drawn characters; they live in their readers’ imaginations, long after the last page has been turned.