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Notes From a Children's Librarian: Books With Sole(s)

Every month, our resident children's librarian Julie Booker brings us great stories from the stacks. 


Book Cover A Good Trade

What’s the big idea? One of the current trends in education is to identify the underlying theme or message, to make connections with other stories and the larger world. Shoes allow for big ideas, relatable to readers as young as age four.

Alma Fullerton and Karen Patkau's A Good Trade starts out simple. Kato, a young boy wakes on his mat in Uganda. He carries his gerry cans to the well for water, splashing his bare feet. Questions start to form in the reader’s mind. Why are the cattle-spotted fields guarded by soldiers? What is this "aid worker's truck" Kato peeks into? He spies a single white poppy and makes a trade for what he's seen: a pair of runners. The beautiful pictures and the one-sentence-per-page provide great starting points for discussing life in Uganda, world help organizations, and inequity in general. 

Book Cover Two Pairs of Shoes

Two Pairs of Shoes by Esther Sanderson is another simple tale that asks a big question. Maggie lives in two worlds—English and Metis—and for her eighth birthday she receives two pair of shoes: moccasins and shiny dress shoes. In the end her grandmother leaves us with something to think about: “From now on you must remember when and how to wear each pair.” 

Where Did You Get Your Moccasins

Elders are also vital in Where Did You Get Your Moccasins? by Bernelda Wheeler. A boy brings a pair of leather slippers to school, made by his grandmother, which prompts his classmates’ questions, beginning with "Who is your Kookum?" The process of making the moccasins is revealed through the children’s inquiry. And there’s a funny final page. 

Book Cover A Flock of Shoes

In A Flock of Shoes by Sarah Tsiang and Qin Leng, Abby longs to wear her sandals long past summer. While swinging in the playground, her flip-flops fly into the air, heading south like migrating birds. Abby's sandals send her postcards as she romps about in her snow boots. “We miss you to the bottom of our soles,” they write. This one’s a great springboard for creating letters whilst exploring the idea of seasonal changes.

Suki's Kimono is a story of tolerance and understanding differences. Suki is teased by her sisters and her schoolmates for wearing her kimono and her bright red geta (wooden clogs) to school. Her Obachan (grandmother) had bought them for her at a street festival. Prompted by her funky teacher Mrs. Paggio, Suki bravely dances the way she did with her grandmother at the fair, thus earning immediate respect. 

Book Cover Big Sarah's Little Boots

What five-year-old can’t relate to outgrowing a favourite pair of rubber boots? In Big Sarah’s Little Boots by Paulette Bourgeois and Brenda Clark, Sarah devises ways of stretching her rain boots, including planting them in her garden. The illustration of the shoe store is compelling with its selection of new boots (plaid, rainbow, buckled). Her little brother inherits the old pair in the end, offering the chance to talk about reusing and the life cycle of objects.

On her first day as teacher-librarian, Julie Booker was asked by a five-year-old if that was her real name. She's felt at home in libraries since her inaugural job as a Page in the Toronto Public Library. She is the author of Up Up Up, a book of short stories published by House of Anansi Press in 2011.

November 24, 2013
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