A Review of Noel Streatfeild’s “Skating Shoes”

So from a few posts ago, a few of you might’ve remembered that I read Noel Streatfeild’s Skating Shoes (also published under the name of White Boots). It’s a children’s book about two girls who contrast each other in many different ways but enjoy skating.

The story begins with Harriet, a girl from a poor but not destitute family who had an illness that left her all skinny and weak. Once she got better, the Harriet’s doctor tells her family that she should pick up skating to strengthen her legs and he could hook her up with the local rink owner who would let her rent skates. When Harriet goes skating at the local rink, she meets Lalla, the well-to-do daughter of a former world champion who died and her aunt is determined to raise Lalla into a figure skating world champion as well. The story is set perhaps in the 1950s when the book was published so being good at figures was a lot more important than free skating. Sonia Henie was the figure skating Queen in the era of the book.

So… my verdict on skating shoes? I wouldn’t recommend it. The entire plot is based on what I perceive as a very abusive and boring friendship in which Harriet fawns over Lalla and her star quality while Lalla, being the rich girl, makes an arrangement through her uncle and nanny to have Harriet join her in her skating lessons, which puts Lalla in a position of power which she abuses and threatens her friend with several times in the book. I find figures fascinating for maybe the first five minutes and then lose interest soon after that, so it doesn’t surprise me that Streatfeild’s descriptions of the girls going through their figures bores me to death. One interesting aspect of the book, however, was that it seemed to be a precedent for future figure skating movies. Here’s the recipe:

  1. Two girls – one rich, one not so much or just poor.
  2. The two girls are enemies but become friends.
  3. The poor one, despite her lack of money, is more talented than the rich girl.
  4. The rich girl discovers other interests other than skating.
  5. The rich girl has a tough parent that insists upon her skating.

Case and point:

Blizzard: The Christmas movie about figure skating and flying, talking reindeer. Wiki entry here. (Surprising what you’re willing to watch during the Christmas holidays…)

Furthermore, the book lacks any exciting bits of plot… just like compulsory figures. Seriously, just read Ballet Shoes instead. The characters were a lot more likeable and the plot a lot more interesting.

To end… a video with figures, explanations of what the figures are supposed to look like (Lalla has trouble with loop figures at one spot in the book) along with the debate of get rid of figures or not? Oh yes, there’s a fluff piece on the fiercest HBIC, Katarina Witt.


~The Rinkside Cafe




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