Book Review: Those Shoes

Published by Candlewick Press, 2007
Expensive black high tops, sleek with two white stripes — oh, how Jeremy wants those shoes! But “there’s no room for ‘want’ around here — just need,” says his grandmother. “And what you need are new boots for winter.”

Author Maribeth Boelts manages to capture the heavy pressures kids face when dealing with trends and fads among their peers in a sensitive way. She uses language that perfectly captures kid-speak: when Jeremy’s shoes wear out on the playground, the school guidance counselor gives him some new ones that he finds embarassing. “They have an animal on them from a cartoon I don’t think any kid ever watched,” Jeremy moans.

Jeremy doesn’t give up hoping though, and when — by sheer luck — he finds a pair of “Those Shoes” at the thrift store, he couldn’t be happier, until he finds that the shoes are too tight. “Sometimes shoes stretch,” he says optimistically, and limps around in them at home. It isn’t until he sees his classmate Antonio wearing taped-up shoes at school that Jeremy thinks of a better use for Those Shoes, and makes a difficult choice.

Noah Z. Jones’ illustrations use clean, flat earth-tones to cheerfully depict Jeremy’s multiracial inner-city neighborhood. While the book certainly has a “message” about the value of friendship over possessions, it isn’t overly preachy or sentimental. It’s — dare I say it? — a shoe-in with a lot of sole.

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