First edition cover
|Illustrator||Richard Kennedy (UK)
Richard Floethe (US)
Wintle's Wonders is a children's novel about a theatrical troupe by Noel Streatfeild. It was first published in 1957, and in 1958 was published in the US as Dancing Shoes, a title which has also been used in more recent UK editions. A number of Streatfeild's children's novels have undergone similar retitling, linking them to her most successful book, Ballet Shoes. Wintle's Wonders draws on the author's own acting experience, and revisits the type of theatrical establishment seen in her adult novels The Whicharts and It Pays to be Good.
As the book begins, Rachel and her adopted sister Hilary are living with Rachel's mother. Rachel's father was a budding film star, but died just as his career was taking off, when the children were seven. As a result, the family is not well off; they must take in boarders in order to make ends meet. Hilary's mother was a dancer, and so Rachel and her mother are determined that Hilary will also become a ballet dancer. Hilary does have a talent for ballet, but is not at all interested in it.
Their mother dies when the girls are ten, just before Hilary's audition for the Royal Ballet School, and the girls go to live with their Uncle Tom (their father's brother), his wife Cora and their child, Dulcie. Aunt Cora runs a dancing school to teach girls how to perform in troupes for pantomimes, musicals and reviews; the troupes are referred to as "Mrs Wintle's Little Wonders". Dulcie, who is almost a year older than Rachel and Hilary, is very attractive and a talented dancer, but also very spoiled by her mother.
Mrs Wintle intended to take only Rachel, as she is a blood relative, but she decides to keep Hilary also, when she realizes how talented a dancer Hilary is. Rachel is horrified by the type of dancing taught at Mrs Wintle's school, which ranges from tap to acrobatics, and remains determined that Hilary will continue with her ballet. Rachel must also train as a Little Wonder, and though she works hard, she has no talent for the dancing required of the "Wonders". She only excels at elocution and acting lessons, which puts her in competition with her cousin Dulcie for theatrical roles. Mrs Storm, their tutor, decides to teach Rachel extra elocution, because it makes her happy. Hilary continues dancing and through the book enjoys acrobatics and musical theatre. Although Rachel tries to bribe her with money to finish ballet, Hilary continues to excel at acrobatics. This makes Rachel upset.
Rachel Lennox is the daughter of actor George Lennox and his wife. A serious-minded child, she tries to take responsibility for herself and her adopted sister Hilary after they are orphaned.
Hilary Lennox is Rachel's adopted sister; the two are very close. Though Rachel wants Hilary to become a ballerina like Hilary's birth mother, Hilary prefers tap dance, acrobatics, and musical comedy.
Cora Wintle is Rachel and Hilary's aunt, a former dancer who now runs a dance academy.
Tom Lennox is Cora's husband, a painter who does not take much interest in dance. He becomes Rachel's friend and protector.
Dulcie Wintle is Cora and Tom's daughter, a talented but proud and snobbish dancer. She is jealous of Hilary, and detests Rachel.
People in school
Mrs Purser, known as Pursie, is the costumer and housekeeper at Mrs Wintle's school.
Mrs Storm is Dulcie, Rachel, and Hilary's schoolteacher, who introduces Rachel to elocution and acting.
Pat and Ena are dance teachers at Mrs Wintle's school.
Yolanda and Wanda are chefs at Mrs Wintle's school.