As part of my Post-K Summer Reading Boot Camp:
I did not have strong feelings about this book either way, but once was enough, as I was a bit confused by the premise–Lena wasn’t nervous about school but her shoes were, though only because the author tells us this; her dad cements the idea of “nervous shoes” by putting it in his daughter’s head. Suddenly, all her clothes start taking on personalities of their own.
Had the shoes been animated (they had as much personality as a sponge), this could’ve been a cute little coming-of-kindergarten-age story.
That business about her shoes not getting along with her dress–because her shoes splashed into a puddle and got it all muddy–didn’t make sense either. Wouldn’t it be the dress who was pissed at the shoes rather than the other way around? And why is the headband such good friends with the shoes? Or better yet, why doesn’t she just wear a different dress–one that her shoes like?
What’s more, how did Lena know the shoes were willing to be brave? Did the shoes tell her this? Such is never shown/explained. I know I’m overthinking this, but I don’t think kids who are the target age for this book are going to get the idea of first-day kindergarten jitters projected onto inanimate objects. Kids like stories that make them laugh or stories they can relate to. This story should’ve focused on Lena’s feelings, not imaginary shoe feelings.
There was no mother in the picture, but a nuclear family doesn’t always have to be portrayed as this was as much about a father’s relationship with his daughter as it was about a child being nervous about her first day of kindergarten. That said, I thought the dad was the mom at first because he said, “Oh, dear.” (That doesn’t sound like a phrase a man would say–I’ve, in fact, never heard a man say that.)
However, a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad idea was showing Lena being afraid of the big dog only for the dog to lick her face; this book should’ve shown Lena being wary around strange dogs and avoiding letting any dog lick her face. After all, they lick their butts.
The illustrations were reminiscent of Syd Hoff’s style (e.g. Danny and the Dinosaur, Sammy the Seal, etc), but his drawings were livelier and more consistent. In Shoes, we bounce around from close-ups to zoom outs (i.e. multiple scenes on a page) to what I would call standard; we also go from black-and-white with spot color to full color. What I loved, however, was the fact that Lena’s bedroom had a little library (in a bookcase shaped like a dollhouse) as well as a telescope (but no TV); the fresh fruits and flowers in the kitchen were also a nice touch. Little details like that show (rather than tell) that Lena’s home is a healthy, nurturing one.
Lena’s Shoes are Nervous was not the best but certainly not the worst.
Suggested activity: There are many activities you can do that have something to do with shoes, whether it’s reading The Wizard of Oz (it really was all about the shoes), play horseshoes, match certain shoes with certain activities (bowling shoes, ballet shoes, etc; I’ve done the same thing with different types of balls).