Olivia is sad and lonely and angry – angry that she’s been dumped with her sister eel at her grandmother’s school, and angrier still that that school turns out to be a stage school where there’s no encouragement for her to do what she loves best: practice her circus skills.
But in the course of a turbulent first term, Olivia finds out much more than she bargained for about the theatre, about friendship, about enemies, about her family and about herself.
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Extract: “It’s a stage school! You said that we were going to stay with Granny Alicia and go to her school. You didn’t tell us that she runs a stage school.” Olivia spat out the words “stage school” as if they had a nasty taste.
Jack looked like a small boy who has just been caught with his fingers in the sweet jar. “Didn’t I? I must have forgotten to mention it.”
Olivia glared at him. “But you’ve always said that you hate all that fake theatre stuff, and so do we.”
“Not me,” piped up Eel. “I’ve always wanted to learn to dance but we’ve never stayed anywhere long enough to have lessons.” She tried to do a little twirl and got tangled up with Olivia, who was still gripping her hand. “I’ll be a great dancer. The bestest.”
Lyn says: “Olivia began on the London tube one day when I saw a group of children from a London stage school get on. They were obviously going off to an audition and they were all full of optimism. I wondered who would be successful that day and who wouldn’t, and what it might be like to go to a stage school. My eldest daughter, Ellie, was learning the trapeze at the time, and I write about theatre for a newspaper, so I began to think about what would happen if those two similar, but also very different, worlds collided.
Kate says: “As a child, I loved the family and friendship dramas, as well as the theatrical drama of books like Ballet Shoes and The Swish of the Curtain. I also loved boarding school stories, from Blyton to Buckeridge, and have shared both with my own children. Lyn Gardner’s stories of Olivia at The Swan Stage School combined so many of the things I loved in a contemporary London setting. It’s sort of Ballet Shoes meets Malory Towers meets Saffy’s Angel.”