Noel Streatfeild was born in Sussex, England on December 24, 1897, the second daughter of a clergyman. She worked in a munitions factory during World War I and after the war she trained as an actress. Her ten years on the stage were not very successful but they gave her valuable knowledge that she was able to use later in her books.
Noel could think herself back into childhood and recall the delights of pets and holidays and Christmas. She wrote 58 books for children; 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. Ballet Shoes is still in print and has sold more than ten million copies; it was followed by many more "Shoes" books, some of which are also still available, and were alluded to in the movie You've Got Mail.
Streatfeild was also a book critic, a lecturer on children's books, and the editor of Noel Streatfeild's Ballet Annual. She continued to write and publish books until she was in her late seventies. She died in London on September 11, 1986.
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