Title: New Shoes
Author: Susan Lynn Meyer
Illustrator: Eric Velasquez
Publisher: Holiday House
Word Count: unavailable (brand new book)
Top 10 Element: Conflict
I am participating in Picture Books 14:14, a challenge created by Christie of Write Wild that encourages bloggers to review 14 picture books in 14 days, starting on Feb. 14th. Today I am reviewing and analyzing this brand new contribution from Susan Lynn Meyer and illustrated by Eric Velasquez, which also is a great fit with my Dive into Diversity Challenge.
Review: New ShoesNew Shoes is a historical fiction story that follows young Ella Mae and her experience with Jim Crow Laws in the South. Ella Mae takes her first trip to the real shoe store only to find out that the white girl who comes in after her gets waited on first, and that only whites are allowed to try shoes on in the store. Ella Mae and her cousin Charlotte comes up with their own powerful solution to this injustice.
This book is a great resource for helping bring the specifics of the Civil Rights Movement to kids by focusing on just one small example of injustice. The story is quick and focused, and the author's note provides additional background to broaden the context. The illustrations are detailed and lively with great expression for the characters.
Analysis: ConflictConflict is an easy choice for this book of the Top 10 Story Elements suggested for analysis. They say that there are only four real conflicts in literature: man vs. man, man vs. self, man vs. nature, and man vs. the system. New Shoes is an excellent example of the difficulties of man vs. the system.
The initial conflict that opens the books is between the girls and their financial situation - Ella Mae knows that her family does not have money to spend on new shoes; she gets her cousin's hand-me-downs. But her rapidly-growing feet require a new solution and propel the story forward to its major conflict.
It is in the shoe store that Ella Mae faces the reality of her conflict with the system. As a young, black girl she must wait until all of the white customers and served, and when it is her turn, she must simply trace an outline of her foot for the clerk to estimate her size. Conversations afterwards with her mother and her cousin sharpen her resolve to do something to fight back against an unfair system.
Ella Mae cannot fight the system directly, so options like protests are unavailable to her. Instead, she and Charlotte begin earning money and old shoes that they fix up and restore. Their solution is to open their own shoe store and allow all their neighbors and classmates to come in, try on shoes, and find actual shoes that fit in a dignified setting. This unique but still realistic solution to a daunting societal issue will surely satisfy young readers.
Want more picture book analyses? Click here to read my other posts for Picture Books 14:14 or check out these great posts by others for the Picture Book 14:14 Challenge going on the rest of this month.