June 3, 2016
Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts, illustrated by Noah Z. Jones
by Maribeth Boelts
illustrated by Noah Z. Jones
Jeremy used to be the fastest boy in his class until one of the other boys showed up in black high tops with two white stripes. He’s confident that these cool shoes make him the fastest. One by one, other boys in the class get a pair of these awesome new shoes. Grandma takes Jeremy to the store, hoping beyond hope that she has enough saved up but the shoes are too expensive. Besides, he needs snow boots with winter coming.
Then one of Jeremy’s shoes falls apart while playing kickball. He has to find a new pair in the school’s charity box. The only pair that fit him are blue with a goofy cartoon character on the side. They are far from cool and every laughs. Everyone except Antonio. He doesn’t have a pair of the cool shoes either and his shoes are taped together.
But Grandma doesn’t give up. They go to the resale and second hand stores. Cowboy boots. Women’s dress shoes. They see all kinds of shoes before they spot a pair of the right shoes. Jeremy lies to his grandmother, telling her that the too-small shoes fit. At home, he keeps hoping that they’ll stretch but he still can’t wear them to school.
Eventually Jeremy gives the cool shoes to Antonio who has smaller feet. But he doesn’t want credit for the gift. He leaves them on Antonio’s porch for his new friend to find.
Writing a book that teaches a message isn’t easy. Believe me, I read through a pile of them this week and a lot of them were just painful. Some of the painful books get good reviews because they teach lessons about bullying or kindness and adults are desperate to teach children about these things. But those aren’t the books that help children internalize the message. Books like this are because the message is wrapped up in a characters and a story that young readers enjoy.
Noah Jones illustrations, created from watercolor, pencil and ink, help bring the story to life. The cools shoes are distinct and easy to spot as boys tear around the playground. Jones does an equally awesome job depicting the emotions of the various characters. We don’t need to be told who is braggy and thoughtlessly cruel or who is ashamed or happy. We can see it right there on the page.
This book is an excellent choice for the classroom or story time. There is a lesson but there is also a story. Focus on the story and let the young readers discover the lesson, word by word, page by page.