The Painted Garden was first published in serial form
in 1948, and as a book (subtitled The Story of a Holiday in
Hollywood) in 1949. The US edition (also 1949) was entitled
Movie Shoes. It is now out of print, although the recent
(2000) Collins paperback may still be available in shops.
Story | Connections
to Other Books | Background | Thoughts
| Editions and Availability | Other
Rachel, Jane and Tim Winter live in London. Following a car accident,
their father has been depressed and unable to work (he is a writer).
The doctor says that an English winter will be very bad for him,
and and his sister, the children's Aunt Cora, invites the whole
family, including their "mother's help" Miss Bean ("Peaseblossom")
to stay with her in California.
Even though they obviously want their father to get better, the
children have mixed feelings about this. Tim is not overly concerned,
even though a famous pianist has just offered to give him lessons.
Tim feels that he can keep practising while he is in America,
and start with the new teacher when he gets back to England. Rachel,
a talented dancer who has been studying at the Children's Academy
of Dancing and Stage Training, is very upset. She has just turned
twelve, and has been selected as one of six children to dance
in a musical play - her first professional engagement. (The M'audition
Pieces article gives details of her audition song and speech.)
However, with her mother's support, she hides her disappointment
from her father. Jane (the "difficult one") is appalled.
Her dog, Chewing Gum, will not be able to come with them, and
she initially refuses to go and leave "the only person who
really and truly loves me" (The Painted Garden,
1949:34). However, eventually the doctor convinces Jane to leave
Chewing Gum with him while they are away.
After an exciting journey by sea and train, the family arrives
in California. Aunt Cora does not have a piano, but Tim finds
one in a nearby drug store, and arranges with the owner that he
can use it to practise on as long as he also plays to entertain
the customers. The head of Rachel's school, Madame Fidolia, has
written to her former pupil, Posy Fossil, and asked her to arrange
for ballet lessons for Rachel while she is in California. Rachel
meets Posy, her sister Pauline, and also Sylvia and Nana (all
characters familiar to readers of Ballet
Jane is walking along the beach when she sees a dog eating a
"very dead fish". Jane is angry that the dog's owner
will let him wander around alone, and eat bad fish that will make
him sick. She has seen the house the dog comes from, so she takes
him back and tells the owner that "some people don't deserve
to have dogs" (The Painted Garden, 1949:123). The
owner (Mr Bryan J. Browne) turns out to be a film director. He
is just about to start on a film of The Secret Garden,
but unfortunately the child actress who was to play Mary has fallen
ill. Having seen Jane's disagreeable and haughty attitude as she
talked to him about caring for his dog, he feels she would be
perfect for the part. Jane is delighted - for the first time she
will be the most important member of the family, rather than simply
the "untalented one". However, film work proves to be
far more difficult than she had imagined.
Connections to Other
The Winter children do not appear in any other books by Noel
Streatfeild. However, because The Painted Garden features
the Fossil family, and briefly 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 Pauline and Posy Fossil, as well
as Sylvia and Nana (all of whom Rachel meets in America). In addition,
Madame Fidolia, who has a major role in Ballet
Shoes, appears briefly in The Painted Garden.
Other books featuring the Fossil girls, and the Children's Academy,
are Curtain Up and Apple
Bough . They also appear in several short stories: "What
Happened to Pauline, Petrova and Posy" and "Coralie".
It has been pointed out to me [thank you Rebecca Harrison] that
there is a possible additional connection between Curtain
Up and The Painted Garden. Early on in The
Painted Garden, there is a passing reference to another ballet
student at the Academy called Miriam: " 'I bet you get chosen.
You and, of course, Miriam and Sylvia, Frances, Audrey and Annette.'
The six were all small and considered in the school exceptionally
promising" (The Painted Garden, 1949:26). It is
possible that this is meant to be Miriam Cohen, who was 8 in Curtain
Up and would therefore be about 12 or 13 in The Painted
Aside from this, The Painted Garden/Move Shoes
has no connections to the other "shoes" books.
After Party Frock,
Noel felt that she had run out of ideas. She says in Beyond
the Vicarage that it was "as if something had dried
up in her brain" (1971: 184). However, with wartime restrictions
easing, it was now possible for her to return to her pre-War approach
of thoroughly researching new subjects for her books. Her agent
suggested that she take a trip to America. She could visit her
publishers in New York, but travel by the "long sea route"
(via Los Angeles) and research a new book, with a film background.
In fact, Noel was not able to have this itinerary (travel was
difficult, as all the ships were taking American troops home),
but in 1947 she set off on a boat for New York, and then travelled
overland to Los Angeles.
Noel visited film studios in Hollywood, and in particular spent
several weeks observing the filming of The
Secret Garden, in which child star Margaret O'Brien played
the character of Mary Lennox. Angela
Bull says that Noel "watched the film children doing
lessons, having costume-fittings, giving press interviews, rehearsing,
and, of course, filming. ... She filled her notebook with every
aspect of studio life" (1984:190).
(This section contains "spoilers" for those who have
not read the book.)
As with Tennis Shoes,
in The Painted Garden Noel chooses to have the "difficult
child" as her heroine. Although all three children act as
perspective characters at various stages, the main plot surrounds
Jane. However, unlike Nicky in Tennis
Shoes, Jane does not emerge as the family member "most
likely to succeed". Trapped between two attractive and talented
siblings, Jane is a plain child who, despite quickness at schoolwork,
is essentially ordinary. Her generally disagreeable attitude arises,
in part, from a sense of inferiority. Sadly - and unusually, for
one of Noel's characters - her ambition to become a world-famous
animal trainer seem little more than a child's fantasy. It is
more likely that she will remain in the shadow of her overachieving
siblings. Geraldine Brennan
(1995) describes her as a "representative of middle-child
misery", and feels that she is "perhaps Streatfeild's
most endearing player for all her infuriating 'black-doggishness'.
As she threatens to scowl through a Californian Christmas, she
is misunderstood by everyone except her creator".
Unfortunately, while Jane is a very real character - related
to, but clearly different from, Nicky - the same cannot be said
for Rachel and Tim. Rachel lacks the subtlety of Susan (Tennis
Shoes), and instead is a very standard "good girl"
older sister. Tim is another of Noel's "musical small brother"
characters, described by Angela
Bull as "dangerously close to cliché" (1984:195).
Although he is more developed than David (Tennis
Shoes), and distinctly different from Mark (Curtain
Up), he is not particularly interesting. Everything seems
to come easily to him - there is no sense of struggle or anxiety,
and he never goes through the agonies his sisters do. When Bella
tells him that the Lord will provide a piano, he calmly accepts
it ... and, miraculously, it happens.
Angela Bull feels that
The Painted Garden is "an ambitious enterprise which,
in the end, disappoints through being overloaded with excessive
adulation for everything American. ... [W]hen the Hollywood romance
and fervid travel writing are stripped away, the disquieting truth
that Noel was merely repeating old themes and old stories is laid
bare" (1984:195). To some extent, Nancy
Huse (1994) appears to agree with this, viewing it as a re-worked
Tennis Shoes. However,
as mentioned above, although there may be superficial similarities,
the three Winter children are distinctly different from the Heaths.
Similarly, while Peaseblossom fills the same "mother's help"
role as Pinny, she has a very different background and (except
when suffering the effects of sea sickness) is far less ineffectual.
and Patricia Craig (You're a Brick, Angela!) view
The Painted Garden in a very different light from Bull
and Huse, feeling that
it "provided a standard which could not easily be maintained"
(1976:295). Similarly, Susan Ang, writing in Victor
Watson's Cambridge Guide to Children's Books in English,
finds it "perhaps the most deeply satisfying of all Streatfeild's
books" (2001:680). Ang is particularly interested in the
intertextual nature of the work, suggesting that The Painted
Garden "does more than merely (re)present other texts
within itself. ... As the film-making progresses, the changes
that come about in Mary in Burnett's book are duplicated in Jane.
... Being liked and appreciated [by David Doe] makes her 'better
not worse', and the conclusion of The Painted Garden
reaffirms the meaning of its guest text" (2001:680).
No discussion of The Painted Garden is complete without
looking at Pauline and Posy Fossil. This is the last time we actually
see them, although Posy will be mentioned in Apple
and Craig point out that the adult Fossils have not developed
from their childhood selves in Ballet
Shoes: "They remain fantasy figures, self-sufficient
and unbothered by emotional troubles", although this is preferable
to the "fuss, mawkishness or annoying unrealism which has
attended the ageing of innumerable other children's-book characters"
(1976:294). Nevertheless, for fans of the earlier book, it is
exciting to see what is happening with the Fossils. In The
Painted Garden we find out that Pauline is finally leaving
films to embark on the stage career she has always wanted. Posy
is to become the prima ballerina of Manoff's company, the future
she had envisaged, but which had became rather more problematic
with the onset of the Second World War. It seems only fitting
that, in their final appearance, the futures implied for them
at the end of Ballet Shoes
should finally be fulfilled.
Editions and Availability
The Painted Garden was first published in serial form,
illustrated by Marcia Lane Foster, in Collins Magazine for
Boys and Girls in 1948. In 1949, Collins published it in book
form, with illustrations by Len Kenyon.
In 1961, Puffin Books issued a revised edition,
illustrated by Shirley Hughes. This edition was reprinted a number
of times throughout the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.
Most of the revisions in this edition consist
of removing a number of small details - nothing is added, and
the only changes to text are to ensure a smooth transition past
the cuts. In the first half of the book, the majority of these
changes are to remove references to rationing in post-War England.
In the second half, however, there are some more significant changes,
that do affect the plot. Following is a list of most of the sections
cut from the revised Puffin edition:
- From the Foreword, the names of individuals who helped Noel
(although the names of organisations remain).
- Two paragraphs that refer to rationing at the beginning of
Chapter Five, as well as a mention that Peaseblossom's chocolate
biscuits were bought "with the points" (1949:123).
- Several paragraphs about food on the Mauritania (the
excitement of unlimited butter, and real orange juice) from
- A section about girls' clothes in America from Chapter Seven.
- "if we had a white of egg, only, of course, we didn't
have, but in America there are lots of eggs" from Chapter
- A further section about girls' clothes in America from Chapter
- A reference in Chapter 18 to clothes being bought with coupons
- The second half of Chapter 21 (which has also been renamed,
from "No-Good Chipmunk" to "The Farmer's Market"),
in which Tim receives a letter from Mr Brown with suggestions
of what to play on Hiram's Hour, and John and Rachel go to the
- Several pages in Chapter 22 in which the family talk about
- A sentence in Chapter 23 that refers to Tim's letter from
Mr Brown (which was cut from Chapter 21)
- Several pages in Chapter 24 about Tim playing jokes with Brent
at Hiram's Hour and Peaseblossom being angry that he is not
taking his talent seriously. It finishes with Tim telling Peaseblossom
that he will be making a gramophone record.
- The entirety of Chapter 25, in which Rachel tells Jane she
is hoping to be asked to join Manoff's ballet company, everyone
visits the film studio and has photographs taken, and the family
(except for Rachel and Jane) goes to Death Valley while Aunt
Cora accompanies Jane to the studio.
- The opening paragraph of Chapter 26 (now 25, due to the removal
of the previous chapter) is slightly rewritten.
- A short section in Chapter 27/26 where Rachel hints to her
father that she may stay in America, and a few sentences about
the women in Manoff's company not wanting to do the dance he
has chosen to rehearse. This chapter also has a slight addition
- Rachel telling Jane she hopes that Manoff will ask her to
stay (which was done in more detail in the original Chapter
25). The book Rachel gives Posy is changed from Sadler's Wells
ballet to The Royal Ballet.
A Collins paperback edition was released in 2000: it seems likely
that this is the revised 1961 text.
In the same year as its UK release (1949), it was released in
the United States by Random House, as Movie Shoes, with
illustrations by Susanne Suba. This edition is quite heavily abridged
from the UK first edition. Changes include:
- Chapter 8, "The Santa Fe Trail," is cut out completely.
- Chapter 21, "The Farmer's Market," becomes Chapter
20, "The Crisis," and the narrative stops with "That
dog's sure got sense".
- Chapter 22, "Thanksgiving" becomes Chapter 21, also
"Thanksgiving", and is somewhat edited.
- Chapter 26, "Tim's Birthday," is distilled to four
and a half pages.
- Chapter 27, "Last Things," is cut out completely.
(Thank you to Sally Stokes for advising me of these changes.)
In 1984, Movie Shoes was released as a Dell Yearling
paperback, still with Susanne Suba's illustrations.
Out of Print
The 2000 Collins paperback
edition of The Painted Garden 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. © 1948 Noel Streatfeild
According to Nancy
Huse (1994), there has been an audiocassette recording of
The Painted Garden (or possibly Movie Shoes).
However, this no longer appears to be available.