Noel Streatfeild is best known as a writer for children, but had not thought of writing for them until persuaded to re-work her first novel as Ballet Shoes; this had sold ten million copies by the time of her death. Saplings (1945), her tenth book for adults, is also about children: a family with four of them, to whom we are first introduced in all their secure Englishness in the summer of 1939. 'Her purpose is to take a happy, successful, middle-class pre-war family - and then track in miserable detail the disintegration and devastation which war brought to tens of thousands of such families,' writes the psychiatrist Dr Jeremy Holmes in his Afterword.
Her 'supreme gift was her ability to see the world from a child's perspective' and 'she shows that children can remain serene in the midst of terrible events as long as they are handled with love and openness.' She understood that 'the psychological consequences of separating children from their parents was glossed over in the rush to ensure their physical survival...It is fascinating to watch Streatfeild casually and intuitively anticipate many of the findings of developmental psychology over the past fifty years.''A study of the disintegration of a middle-class family during the turmoil of the Second World War, and quite shocking' wrote Sarah Waters in the Guardian. Saplings was a ten-part serial on BBC Radio 4 in 2004.