Party Frock by Noel Streatfeild
Publisher: Armada Lions | 1971 (first published 1946) | 224 pages
Buy on Amazon
It is amazing how almost an entire village comes together to participate in a pageant organised by kids. And it all started when Selina, 14, receives a party frock and satin shoes from a godmother in America. It is World War II, therefore, there are no grand parties for Selina to wear the frock and shoes at her cousins’ home in a rural village in England. Her six cousins – John, Christopher, Sally, Phoebe, Augustus and Benjamin – come together to put on a pageant that eventually turns out to be an affair that is bigger than expected.
The children would write out the scripts for their respective scenes as well as train the actors that are to act in them. They decided to hold the pageant at the Abbey, the historical and believed to be cursed residence that belongs to Colonel Day and his wife.
Things got on to a good start as they prepare the cast and incorporate a ballet into the pageant. Upon realising that they need ideas to make their pageant a presentable one, they accept the help of Philip, the Days’ nephew, who is injured from the war but with experience in theatre.
With Philip’s professional theatre advice, though initially not welcomed by the strong-headed Phoebe, the pageant suddenly becomes a big event that has the participation of almost everyone in the village.
When such a big pageant is in the works, there are of course some problems encountered by the children. For example, Selina feels that she is mostly left out even though she does most of the running in the preparations and rehearsals that she has been given the title of stage manager. Phoebe, unlike the others, had refused any help from Philip, so her scene becomes a little out of place in the pageant.
At first, I was a bit put off from reading the book. I had begun on the first few chapters but looking at the condition of my book, I was reluctant to keep going. I bought my copy from a secondhand bookstore a few years ago and its pages are seriously browning. When I opened to read it, the pages kept falling apart. Now I have to be careful when turning the pages so as to avoid more of them falling out.
I kept reading because I wanted to finish it. The flow of the story is really organised despite having so many characters involved. The illustrations throughout the book were cute and somewhat helpful while I relied on my imagination on the unfolding of the story. If only there is a movie adaptation for this book!
The characters are endearing especially little Benjamin who starts every sentence with ‘My dear’. And he is only four years old. I would like to see a boy aged four saying ‘My dear! I never upset my food.’
So far I have read two other books by Streatfeild – Ballet Shoes for Anna and White Boots. I wished I had read her books when I was younger. I think I might have enjoyed them! Still, it is better to be late than never so I’m trying to catch up with her books that I missed reading last time.
Party Frock is now published under the title of Party Shoes.
Other reviews: Sue’s Book Reviews