Sunday, March 09, 2008


THOSE SHOES by Maribeth Boelts, illustrated by Noah Z. Jones (Candlewick) Jeremy dreams of the black high-tops with two white stripes, perfect for running as fast as lightning, but after his own shoes fall apart, he finds himself stuck with some hand-me-down Velcro-tie shoes from the school office ("they have an animal on them from a cartoon I don't think any kid ever watched"). By some miracle, he finds a pair at the resale shop within his means; who cares if they are a half-size too small? But when he notices a classmate wearing shoes that are all taped up, Jeremy's conscience leads him to a very difficult decision. The dignity and spirit of the characters are never compromised in this story that recognizes, as children so often do, the heavy and sometimes unreasonable burden of trends and status. The refreshing depiction of an African-American boy helping a Caucasian child who is less fortunate than himself speaks to the modern segregation of poverty. Full of crisp, colorful, digitally-assembled illustration, there is no overcooked "grittiness" of an urban tale; instead, all readers and listeners will be touched by the true colors that come shining through. Proactive and ultimately cheerful, this story is a shoe-in for multicultural collections, and a valuable chance for everyone from all backgrounds and economic groups to reflect with appreciation on whatever they have. (6 and up)

Another picture book worthy of sharing and discussion across the grade levels, and that speaks to the best in children:
FOUR FEET, TWO SANDALS by Karen Lynn Williams and Khadra Mohammed, illustrated by Doug Chayka (Eerdmans) When relief workers throw clothing off of the back of a truck at a refugee camp, there is a mad scramble that leaves Lina with a single yellow sandal with a blue flower in the middle. Wearing the other sandal is a girl who becomes Lina's newfound friend. But when one of the families is going to be resettled in America, what will become of the shoes...and the friends? I was worried when I saw this book that it would be heavy-handed, but instead I found a universal and compelling story of two girls with generous spirits who wish to stay connected even when the world pulls them apart. The situation is dealt with sensitively for the intended age group, and the empathetic treatment of the subject makes for worthy and necessary reading in our global society. As an executive director of the Pittsburgh Refugee Center, co-author Mohammed has worked with refugees in the U.S. and abroad for more than twenty years. This story is based on her experience at a camp in Peshwar, on the Afghan-Pakistan border, a setting conveyed by broad brush-strokes in sandy acrylics. See if you can read it without choking up just a little bit. (7 and up)

You can read both of these books, and let someone else walk a mile in your moccasins with the fabulous Soles for Souls initiative, just the kind of drive kids can jump into with both feet!

Also of interest:
Looking for more great children's books from around the world? Check out the snazzy site at Shen's Books, dedicated to quality multicultural children's literature, Mitali Perkin's multicultural Fire Escape (oo, her fabulous RICKSHAW GIRL is finally available in paperback; I think I need a classroom set of thirty!) and the thoughtful annotated multicultural bibliographies made available by author Cynthia Leitich Smith. Remember, one of the joys in reading is finding yourself reflected in books; the other joy is making "friends" and visiting places far removed from your own experience! Multicultural literature offers both!

And on the subject of shoes...
Shop with Esme
Just in time for the mud season, these Candy Toss Rain Boots from Dylan's Candy Bar in New York really go with anything, I think!

On a personal note:
Besides children's literature, one of my great passions in life is celebrating the proud local traditions of children's media in Chicago (read THE GOLDEN AGE OF CHICAGO CHILDREN'S TELEVISION by Ted Okuda and Jack Mulqueen for an awesome look at what I'm talking about!). Being a children's book author and a teacher is terrific fun, but my dream is life is to someday have a read-aloud radio show, and then work up the gumption to pitch a show for my favorite local station, WCIU, in the style of, like, if my idols Dinah Shore and Pee-Wee Herman mated, and had me.


I'm working on it! Meanwhile, still on the subject of shoes, put on your dancing ones and watch a favorite retro idol, Pandora, in the opening of the KIDDIE-A-GO-GO show (yes, I know I have a lot of idols, so what, I can't help it, there are and have been so many great, fun people to look up to)! So, boys and girls, are you ready to "TWISTANDSHOUT" ?!?! This kid doing the backstroke just kills me every time...

Note to self: bring disco ball to the library!

Links are provided for informational use. Don't forget to support your local bookseller.


Anonymous said...

I used to love Kiddie-A-Go Go, too.


stacy Buehler said...

i love it.
i love how they're pushin' the meats...

Anonymous said...

The Kiddie a-go-go is crazy funny! I wasn't raised in Chicago and never saw it until your blog. I think I missed out!

I love those candy rain boots, but I really want the umbrella!

And can I say, you COULD be the love child of Pee Wee and Dinah!
Oh how I love Pee Wee, too! In fact, I just bought the entire DVD collection. Hey! If I love it so much, why don't I marry it?

Andrea Beaty


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