HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Castanets for Caroline: A Story of Sadler’s Wells
Author: Lorna Hill
Illustrator: Oscar Liebman
Publisher: Henry Holt and Company, 1956
Related website: http://lornahill.blogspot.com/
Language level: 2 (copious usage of the euphemisms “gosh” and “golly”)
Reading level: Ages 12-16
Rating: 4 stars (GOOD)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Hill, Lorna. Castanets for Caroline: A Story of Sadler’s Wells (originally published in 1953 as No Castanets at the Wells; republished in 1956 by Henry Holt and Company, New York City, NY). As this book opens, Caroline Scott is a twelve-year old girl who lives in Northumberland, England, with her parents and sixteen-year old sister Fiona in their family home at Bracken Hall. Her father’s brother, Uncle Adrian, and his seventeen-year-old son and Caroline’s cousin Sebastian, who is a budding pianist and composer, also live on the estate in a separate cottage. Caroline’s cousin on her mother’s side, Veronica Weston, has been staying with the Scotts too, but she leaves for London to get a part in the ballet Job. Veronica and Sebastian have evidently been very friendly, but she has to go just before a concert that Sebastian gives at Newcastle, and moody artiste that he is he holds a grudge over her failure to come and hear him.
Sebastian has a friend from Spain, Angelo Ibanez, who does Spanish dancing with castanets, and when Caroline sees him dance at a party, she is taken by Spanish dancing. The Scotts have fallen on somewhat hard times, and Caroline assumes that she will “take up Domestic Science” when she leaves school but decides that she wants to go to Sadler’s Wells junior dancing school in London, where Veronica had gone, and she can stay with Mariella Foster, a cousin of her friend Jane’s. Sebastian also goes off to study music. The rest of the book covers the next three years of Caroline’s life during which she works hard at ballet school but doesn’t seem to do very well except at characteristic dancing, and Sadler’s Wells allows no castanets. She runs into Angelo and his new partner doing their Spanish dances but shortly afterwards is told that she must leave the ballet school. What will she do?
I must be honest and say that books about ballet dancing do not thrill me. However, the story in this book is interesting and quite readable. The plot does plod along rather slowly at times and meanders in various directions at others, but I will admit that I found the ending rather satisfying, and I would assume that young people, especially girls, who like reading about the ballet should enjoy Castanets for Caroline. This book is part of a whole series of “Sadler’s Wells” books by Lorna Hill (1902-1991). It is dedicated to the children who had written the author begging her to “write more about Sebastian, Veronica, and the rest of them,” and two other books, A Dream of Sadler’s Wells and Veronica at Sadler’s Wells by the same author are listed. A blogspot maintained for Hill lists many more. As to language, there is nothing worse than copious usage of the euphemisms “gosh” and “golly.”