The Scarlet Stockings by Charlotte Kandel

Abandoned as a baby, Daphne has spent the first thirteen years of her life in the Orphanage of St. Jude. She dreams of being a ballet dancer and though she knows the chances are as slim as being adopted at age thirteen. But when she received a package containing a strange book, a mysterious riddle, and a pair of scarlet stockings, everything changes. The stockings promise her a chance at the life she has always dreamed of, if only she can solve the riddle.

The story itself is pretty solid, serving as a cautionary tale about how fame and success can go to a person’s head if they lose touch with their roots. (Think “Jenny from the Block.”) It also serves as a reminder to always hope, work for what you want, and the unconditional love of family and friends.

The story has a few weaknesses, to be sure. It moves so quickly from place to place that it is difficult to really settle in and get to know any of the characters particularly well. Daphne, the character we follow throughout, is somewhat inconsistent and not just because she changes. She claims to be closed off emotionally and somewhat shy, but all we ever see is her showing her emotions to anyone who will stand within twenty feet of her and a willingness to talk to just about anyone and put herself out there despite her lack of formal training.

The bigger problem for me is that the riddle is not really a riddle but a not so well written outline of what she will experience. There’s not actually anything for her to do or figure out so much as see how it comes true.

Despite this, there’s something fun and fanciful about this tale. It’s sweet and ultimately joyful, even when Daphne’s worst personality traits come out. Her pure and whole-hearted love of dance is something everyone can relate to.

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