Gemma and Sisters was first published in 1968, with a
US edition in the same year. It is now out of print, although
the recent (1999) Collins paperback may still be available in
Story | Connections
to Other Books | Thoughts | Editions
Gemma and Sisters follows on immediately from Gemma,
starting the morning after the first Gemma and Sisters concert.
More performances of Gemma and Sisters follow, and the rehearsals
add to Ann's already heavy workload. In addition to schoolwork
(which she takes very seriously) Ann is in both the church and
school choirs, and has just started to have proper singing lessons
At school, Gemma is given the lead role in the Drama Group's
production of a play, written by one of the teachers, about the
life of Lady Jane Grey. This is a magnificent, but very demanding,
Lydia, however, suffers a great disappointment. Miss Arrowhead
decides to organise a public performance that will include all
of her students, except Lydia, who is already performing in Gemma
and Sisters. Lydia is furious, and, in retaliation, decides that
"because of my dancing I've always taken care not to do things
that use wrong muscles, well now I'll do all the wrong things"
(Gemma and Sisters, 1968:64). To achieve this, she borrows
Ann's bicycle, but while riding it on the road is hit by a car
and breaks her hip.
Connections to Other
Gemma and Sisters is the second in a four book series:
the other three books are Gemma,
Gemma Alone and Good-bye
(This section contains "spoilers" for those who have
not read the book.)
There are signs in Gemma and Sisters that Noel was not
taking a great deal of care with this series. It contains a number
of inconsistencies with Gemma:
for example, at the beginning of Gemma and Sisters, Gemma
reflects that it was more than two years ago that she first came
to Headstone, whereas in fact it cannot be much more than 18 months;
and when Lydia tells Miss Arrowhead about the first Gemma and
Sisters performance, she says she did a "doll dance",
rather than the Irish Jig stated in the first book. Furthermore,
there is a serious problem with the timeline within Gemma
and Sisters. Chapter Eight deals with Christmas, and Chapter
Nine begins "After so much excitement in the Christmas holidays
it seemed dull to be getting back into uniform for the start of
the new term" (Gemma and Sisters, 1968:50). It is
clearly still early in this term when, in Chapter Twelve, Lydia
has her accident. However, it subsequently becomes clear that
this accident has taken place in about October - Lydia is still
on crutches when Christmas is celebrated again in Chapter Eighteen,
and in January she says that the has "missed fifteen weeks
of dancing lessons". For the remainder of the book, this
is the timeline that applies.
As in Gemma, there is some
comparison made between amateurs and professionals. In Gemma
and Sisters, however, this is not made as a result of Gemma's
performances, but rather from her behind-the-scenes behaviour.
Mr Stephens is somewhat taken aback at her no-nonsense method
of learning the Latin and Greek speeches for the play, while her
patience during dress fittings amazes the teacher and her assistants.
Editions and Availability
Gemma and Sisters was first published in 1968, with cover
painting and illustrations by Betty Maxey. The entire Gemma
series was "specially written by Noel Streatfeild for Armada
Books". Thus, the first edition was a paperback, and it appears
that Gemma and Sisters has never had a hardcover release.
It was republished in the early 1970s as an "Armada Lion"
paperback, still with the Betty Maxey illustrations, but with
a photographic cover.
In the later 1970s it came out as a "Fontana Lion"
paperback with the Betty Maxey illustrations and a (different)
photographic cover. This edition continued to be republished into
the 1980s, with yet another cover design.
In 1999 Collins released a new paperback edition, with a new
In the same year as its UK release (1968), Gemma and Sisters
was released in the United States by Dell.
It was republished in the late 1980s as a Dell Yearling paperback.
As I have not read the US editions, I do not know if the text
was in any way amended.
Out of Print
The 1999 Collins paperback
edition of Gemma and Sisters 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 February 2004, second hand copies through online booksellers
start in price at around £2. (Source: Addall
Used and Out of Print Book Search.)
Publishers Ltd. © 1968 Noel Streatfeild