Review: NEW SHOES by Susan Lynn Meyer

writ­ten by Susan Lynn Mey­er
illus­trat­ed by Eric Velasquez
pub­lished by Hol­i­day House (Feb­ru­ary 2015)

It’s not easy to write a pic­ture book for young kids that tack­les a tough sub­ject in an age-appro­pri­ate way. And it’s even hard­er to do so while still being enter­tain­ing. NEW SHOES by Susan Lynn Mey­er does all of that and more, and it does it so very beautifully.
Pub­lish­er’s summary:

Set in the South dur­ing the time of seg­re­ga­tion, this lush­ly illus­trat­ed pic­ture book brings the civ­il rights era to life for con­tem­po­rary read­ers as two young girls find an inven­tive way to foil Jim Crow laws.
When her cous­in’s hand-me-down shoes don’t fit, it is time for Ella Mae to get new ones. She is ecsta­t­ic, but when she and her moth­er arrive at Mr. John­son’s shoe store, her hap­pi­ness quick­ly turns to dejec­tion. Ella Mae is unable to try on the shoes because of her skin col­or. Deter­mined to fight back, Ella Mae and her cousin Char­lotte work tire­less­ly to col­lect and restore old shoes, wip­ing, wash­ing, and pol­ish­ing them to per­fec­tion. The girls then have their very own shoe sale, giv­ing the oth­er African Amer­i­can mem­bers of their com­mu­ni­ty a place to buy shoes where they can be treat­ed fair­ly and “try on all the shoes they want.”

It’s hard for me to imag­ine not being allowed to try on shoes, and I must admit I nev­er even real­ized that par­tic­u­lar injus­tice was part of the Jim Crow laws. I’m glad to have been enlight­ened. Want­i­ng to try on a pair of shoes is some­thing that can be eas­i­ly under­stood by young chil­dren, and they will be able to appre­ci­ate the unfair­ness of the sit­u­a­tion in the shoe store.
What I real­ly love about this book, though, is how the girls solve the prob­lem them­selves. They work hard to earn start­up funds, they take great care and pride in launch­ing their shoe store, and they solve a prob­lem not just for them­selves, but for their whole com­mu­ni­ty! That is change­mak­ing at its finest.
This mov­ing and inspi­ra­tional pic­ture book belongs in every class­room in Amer­i­ca. To make it even eas­i­er, the pub­lish­er’s web page for the book has class­room dis­cus­sion ques­tions and an edu­ca­tor’s guide, both with Com­mon Core State Stan­dards (CCSS) connections.
I hope you’ll check out NEW SHOES… and share it with others!

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.