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Apple Bough was first published in 1962. The US edition (also 1962) was entitled Traveling Shoes. It is now out of print, although the recent (2000) Collins paperback may still be available in shops.

Story | Connections to Other Books | Thoughts | Editions and Availability


The Forums (David and Polly, and the children Myra, Sebastian, Wolfgang and Ethel) live in a house called Apple Bough, and are a very musical family. David is a pianist, and considered one of the best accompanists in the country. Polly had been training to be a professional singer before her marriage: after her marriage she gave up training, and became an artist.

All of the children can play the piano nicely, but Myra, Wolfgang and Ethel are "born amateurs". Sebastian plays remarkably well, but there seems to be something missing. However, when he is four David and Polly realise that the violin is his instrument, and he begins taking lessons, and practising up to four hours a day. Because of his violin lessons, Sebastian cannot go to a normal school, so David and Polly engage a governess to teach all the children - Miss Popple, who soon becomes known as Popps.

At the suggestion of his violin teacher, David and Polly allow Sebastian to play at a musicians' charity event when he is eight. As a result of this, an important American concert arranger makes an offer for Sebastian to tour America, accompanied by his father. The tour will finish in California, where a great violin master lives: the income from the tour will be enough to pay for lessons. At first Polly refuses, not wanting to break up the family. However, a new offer is made, for the whole family, and Miss Popple, to travel with Sebastian. David and Polly think this will be a wonderful experience for the children, so they agree. Apple Bough is sold, Myra's dog, Wag, is left with Miss Popple's brother, and the family set off for America.

One tour is followed by another, and after four years the family has travelled around North and South America, Japan, Australia, and Europe, but they have not been back to England. By this time, the children and Miss Popple are getting tired of travelling: Myra misses Wag, Ethel wants to be a student at the Royal Ballet School, and Wolfgang feels "it's as if Sebastian was a dog and we were his tail" (Apple Bough, 1962:75).

When Sebastian turns twelve, he is able to perform in England. Before his first concert, Myra, Wolfgang and Ethel have a holiday with their grandparents, and it is from a conversation with Grandfather that "Operation Home" is born.

Connections to Other Books

The Forum children do not appear in any other books by Noel Streatfeild. However, because Apple Bough briefly features Madame Fidolia and the Children's Academy, it has connections with a number of Noel's other books.

The most obvious of these is Ballet Shoes, Noel's first book for children. It is in this book that we are first introduced to Madame Fidolia and her Children's Academy of Dancing and Stage Training (which Ethel attends while the Forum family is in London). One of the main characters in Ballet Shoes is Posy Fossil, whom Ethel refers to as "the greatest dancer in the world" (1962:92).

Other books featuring Madame Fidolia, the Children's Academy, and Posy Fossil, are Curtain Up and The Painted Garden . They also appear in a short story: "What Happened to Pauline, Petrova and Posy". (Posy's sister, Pauline, appears in another short story, "Coralie".)

Aside from this, Apple Bough/Traveling Shoes has no connections to the other "shoes" books.


(This section contains "spoilers" for those who have not read the book.)

In Apple Bough, Noel Streatfeild gives an interesting picture of a prodigiously gifted child. Sebastian is a musician among musicians, and is effectively treated - and behaves - as an adult. However, for the rest of the time he is an introverted, and somewhat immature, young boy. Noel also shows clearly the effect that performing can have on a sensitive nature. After a concert, Sebastian is emotionally drained, and needs to relax with his siblings in order to "unwind". Without this release, he finds that he cannot sleep after a concert - "I kept waking up with a jump, as if I was falling off a cliff" (Apple Bough, 1962:141). There is no suggestion that Sebastion should not be performing, simply that the appropriate support mechanisms need to be in place. In Sebastian's case, this means having someone to "do something ordinary with" afterwards.

However, Apple Bough is not really about the training and life of a musician. The central character is Myra, not Sebastian, and the driving force of the story is the children's desire for a home. Essentially, they need to choose between keeping the family together without a permanent home, or living independent lives, but with a home and a family member to whom they can always return. Noel shows that, while it is important to keep a family together, it is just as important - especially for children - to have a stable environment, and recognition of individual needs. The children do not dispute Polly's view that a family should stay together; they simply come to resent the fact that anything they may want must always be secondary to the requirements of Sebastian's tours. By the fourth year of touring, the family has become unbalanced ("it's as if Sebastian was a dog and we were his tail") to an extent that outweighs the value of their remaining physically together. Ultimately, Polly and David realise that they have unwittingly ignored the needs of their other children. At the end of the book, the family members are pursuing individual goals, but family commitment is stronger than ever. Apple Bough finishes with, Myra, who has always been the dependable member of the family, saying "Apple Bough will be waiting whenever you can come home - and, of course, so will I" (Apple Bough, 1962:256).

This is the first of Noel's books to consider the importance of domestic work and homemaking to family life. In earlier books, such as The Bell Family, homemaking has been the role of the mother, and while her influence may be felt, it is not examined in detail. In Apple Bough, however, it is Myra who will prove to excel in managing daily life. Nancy Huse points out that "Contingent on choice and specialization as it is, Myra's vocation takes its place beside that of other family members" (1994:116).

Editions and Availability

UK Editions

Apple Bough was first published by Collins in 1962, with illustrations by Margery Gill.

In 1967, it was released in paperback by Puffin Books, still with Margery Gill's illustrations. This edition was reprinted a number of times throughout the 1970s and 1980s.

A new paperback edition was released in 1987 by Swift Books, and another by Collins ("Lions") in 1990. These editions also retained Margery Gill's illustrations.

In 2000, another Collins edition of Apple Bough was released in paperback.

US Editions

In the same year as its UK release (1962), it was released in the United States by Random House, as Traveling Shoes, with illustrations by Reisie Lonette.

In 1984, there was a Dell Bantam Books paperback edition.

As I have not read the US editions, I do not know if the text was in any way amended.

Out of Print

2000 Collins paperback edition of Apple Bough    

The 2000 Collins paperback edition of Apple Bough may still be available in shops. However, it is no longer listed on the HarperCollins website, and can therefore be assumed to be out of print.

In May 2004, second hand copies through online booksellers start in price at around 1. (Source: Addall Used and Out of Print Book Search.)

HarperCollins Publishers Ltd. © 1962 Noel Streatfeild


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© 1962 Noel Streatfeild

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Apple Bough