I'm not a little embarrassed to say that when I was in 7th grade I really, really wanted a pair of clear jelly shoes. The kind that had a lattice pattern. Perhaps you remember them? Perhaps you are too young. Now my 6 year old really wants a pair of sneakers that light up when he walks. It's a bit more sophisticated technology than jelly shoes. In any case, I'm pretty sure that at some point we all have wanted a pair of "those shoes."
Maribeth Boelts' Those Shoes has turned this rather universal desire into a picture book about friendship and the realization that some things are more important than shoes. Jeremy wants a certain pair of shoes, but when the only pair he can get is a too-small pair at a thrift store he notices that his friend Antonio might just need them more than he does.
Illustrator Noah Z Jones places the story firmly in the city from the get-go. We frequently see the familiar city horizon of grey and brown apartment and skyscraper blocks through almost every window and while the kids are at school.
Sometimes I wonder what makes and author or illustrator set a book in the city when there is not necessarily anything in the text to suggest it. After all, schools and thrift shops exist everywhere. It is because we might stereotype a boy who lives with his grandma and not having much money as people who live in an urban center? I don't know, I don't want to make any assumptions. The story could take place anywhere, but I'm glad it's set in the city. The illustration of Jeremy and his grandmother in their apartment is an intimate one, and yet the city out the window widens the experience. I always find the presence of the urban landscape in a book to be a reminder of the masses of people who surround us as we experience even the so-called smallest of problems (like shoe-envy).
I thought this was a charming book with an important and well-said message, even if it means there are things more important than having the right shoes. (More important than jellies? Really?)
Visit the author's website.
Visit the illustrator's really fun website.
Have you ever considered shoes as a hot topic for picture books? Barnes and Noble has a list for you.
Big Kid says: I want a pair of police car sketchers. (*sigh*)