To have a pair of shoes when they are needed is a blessing. Growing up we had two pair, one for everyday and another pair for dress-up. It always seemed a shame to have those dress-up shoes, beautiful shoes, sitting unworn except for church, birthdays, or holidays. The everyday shoes were far from fashion statements, parental selections designed for durability until they were outgrown. This might explain my adult fascination with shoes, particularly red shoes.
Red is a color of warmth and positivity. It makes a bold statement. In Red Shoes (Scholastic Press, September 15, 2020) written by Karen English with illustrations by Ebony Glenn we see how objects have stories attached to them. The stories reveal potential and personalities.
Red shoes dazzling---perched on a pedestal in the shop
window as if on a throne.
"I want those, Nana," Malika says to her grandmother as they
pass the shop.
"We'll see," Nana says with a wink. "Looks like you could use
a new pair."
To Malika's surprise, those very red shoes appear in a box on her kitchen table. Her joy bubbles over into laughter as she slips on her new red shoes.
Malika parades around her house. Malika walks out the door so everyone can see her red shoes. On the first day of school, it is raining, but she wears rain boots over her red shoes to keep them cozy and dry.
For every special family occasion, those red shoes sparkle on Malika's feet. They are there when she has a disagreement with her friend and when they mend fences. One day, though, on Nana's birthday those red shoes hurt to wear. She and Nana take them to a resale shop, so they can add pizzazz to another child's life.
Inna Ziya notices those shoes, just as Malika did, in the store window. After the purchase they travel with her to Africa. They are a gift for a girl who has passed a milestone in her young life. The story of the red shoes is not over. It will continue as long as there are little girls who need and want to wear them.
When we read the first three sentences penned by Karen English, we feel a surge of merriment. Her choice to include dialogue between the two sets of characters brings readers closer to the story. Who among us has not been delighted by the perfect present? Readers are invited to participate by joining in with the sound effects made by Malika walking in her red shoes. The repetition of the words red shoes is a cheerful cadence connecting events and people, even far away from one another. Here is a passage.
Red shoes stomping home when
Malika and her best friend Keisha have a fight.
Malika is mad and sticks to it.
Red shoes jumping double Dutch
at Keisha's birthday party after
they make up.
[Please note: I am working with an F & G.]
When you open the cover (dust jacket), larger than life, in all their splendidness are Malika on the front, and Amina, the girl living in Africa, on the back. Their body postures are a mirror image of each other with their hand positions and the pointing of a single foot in front of their bodies. Both are placed on a canvas using the same three colors, but they have been switched to better complement the clothing each is wearing. Amina is wearing a green-patterned dress with a hijab in two shades of purple. Her eyes, unlike those of Malika, are wide open.
On the opening and closing endpapers is a celebratory design. The smaller elements on a red background look like confetti in colors of purple, yellow, and green. On the title page, Malika is pointing to a place on a globe.
Each of the images by Ebony Glenn
were rendered digitally with Adobe Photoshop using chalk, paper, and watercolor textures.
They range in size from colorful double-page pictures, to a collection of smaller visuals to indicate the passage of time, and full-page pictures sometimes indicating a contrast between events. The hues used in the images shift once the story continues in Africa.
For many of the pictures, Ebony Glenn takes us close to the character of Malika and to Amina. It makes the experience for us more personal as do the added details. The eyes on the faces of the characters elevate the moods of them. You'll find yourself smiling or giggling several times.
One of my many, many favorite pictures is a double-page picture. The background is a pleasing blend of shades of green (and maybe a pale yellow) with a multitude of raindrops and one big puddle on the right, which crosses the gutter slightly to the left. On the right showing pure glee is Malika. Her yellow-orange umbrella slightly crosses the gutter to the left, too, as she holds it above and behind her. The handle on the umbrella is a bright green. Malika is wearing a red raincoat. Her yellow pants appear between the raincoat bottom and her yellow-orange boots. Her eyes are closed, and her mouth is smiling.
You'll want to use this book for a group read aloud, or as a one-on-one storytime. It can enhance a theme of clothing, stories are found everywhere, journeys, and the beauty of resale. Red Shoes written by Karen English with artwork by Ebony Glenn will be a welcome addition on your personal and professional bookshelves.
To learn more about Ebony Glenn and her other work, please follow the link attached to her name to access her website. Ebony Glenn has accounts on Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter. Ebony Glenn is highlighted at KidLit411. There is an earlier article about Karen English at BookPage in 2017. Both Karen English and Ebony Glenn were guests on Scholastic's Ambassador of School Libraries, John Schumacher's Book Joy Live. I guarantee, it, like this book will send your soul soaring.
Update: This title is showcased on Scholastic's blog with a conversation between the author and illustrator. October 21, 2020