Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild is the story of three adoptive sisters, Pauline, Petrova, and Posy, who all end up at a performing arts school, appearing on stage to earn extra money for the family. Pauline is a natural stage actor. Posy is an astonishingly gifted ballet dancer. Petrova is rubbish at all of it, and would much rather be taking a car to bits or flying a plane. The very last line of the book reads:
‘I wonder’ – Petrova looked up – ‘if other girls had to be one of us, which of us they’d choose to be?’
(which is proof that it’s one of the best books ever, because that’s a question all books ask, even if they don’t say so).
Me, I didn’t read Ballet Shoes for years even though people told me I’d love it, because I thought it sounded really girly and flouncy and there might be tutus – so I’m definitely a Petrova. But: *dramatic pause* does that make me Pe-TRO-va, or PET-rova? Most British people say the former – but the audiobook version I heard years ago had the latter, which, now I know lots of Russians, is probably more authentic. (Really it would be PYET-rova, but that’s getting picky.)
I was asked which sister I was (by G♥B‘s own Keris Stainton) recently, and it made me think about the small ways a book can be intimidating, without meaning to be. I loved Nicholas Fisk’s sci-fi story Monster Maker (about a boy who loves monster films, and gets to work with the models that create the special effects) – but his hero is called Chancey Balogh, and to this day I don’t know how to say that. (Ballow? Balog? Baluff?)
Then there was Daphne (Dapp-en? Daff-ner?) at Malory Towers. And Sappho (Sappo? Sap-fo?) from Pigeon Post – and also, er, Greek poetry – though to me she will always be a pigeon who spells her name very unhelpfully.
So: I hereby declare a mispronunciation amnesty! Am I the only one who frets about getting it wrong – or would anyone care to confess a name they’ve struggled with?
And if you’ve read Ballet Shoes, which Fossil are you?