Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Why I love Skating Shoes

One particularly beastly day, when it looked every minute as if it were going to rain and never quite did, Harriet was coming home from the river feeling as blue as a lobelia, when a car stopped beside her.

"Hullo, Harriet. How are you getting on?"

Harriet had been so deep in gloom because she was cold and tired that she had not noticed the car, but as he spoke she saw Doctor Phillipson. Quite suddenly everything she had been thinking about spindly legs and fresh air and not going to school came over her in a wave and she did what she would never have done in the ordinary way: she told the doctor exactly what she thought of his treatment.

"How would you feel if you were made to walk up and down a river in almost winter, all by yourself, getting colder and colder, and bored-er and bored-er, with absolutely nothing to do, and not allowed to stay indoors for one minute because you'd been ill and your doctor said you'd got to have fresh air? I feel simply terrible, and I shouldn't think I'll ever, ever get well again."...

..."I must say," he agreed, "you do look a miserable little specimen. I hoped you'd pick up after that convalescent home the hospital sent you to."

Harriet looked at him sadly, for she thought he was too nice to be so ignorant.

"I don't see why I should have got better at that convalescent home."

"It's a famous place."

"But it's at the top of a cliff, and everything goes on at the bottom of the cliff, sea-bathing and the sands and everything nice like that. I could never go down because my legs were too wobbly to bring me back."

The doctor muttered something under his breath which sounded like "idiots"...

-Skating Shoes by Noel Streatfield (pp 6-8, from the second printing of the 1951 edition.)

Later that evening, the doctor pays a call on Harriet's parents and suggests that Harriet take up skating to strengthen her legs. The book is filled with fully-drawn characters, all of whom are loveable and flawed. Not one of them says anything that another character could have said, they are all completely individual and themselves.

And the book smells good in the way only a book that is over 50 years old and has been read over and over again can. It's not musty or moldy, it's old and papery and salty.

And it's out of print, as Meg Ryan's character in You've Got Mail correctly points out. But countless Bratz books are IN print. How does that happen?


Magpie said...

So many good books are out of print.

jo(e) said...

I do so love all the Shoes books.

Genevieve said...

I want to read this now . . . maybe I'll try interlibrary loan or buy a used copy.