New Shoes

by Susan Lynn Meyer and Eric Velasquez

When Ella Mae, who’s always had hand-me-downs, goes shoe shopping for the first... read more

When Ella Mae, who’s always had hand-me-downs, goes shoe shopping for the first time, she’s eager to try on the pair of new saddle shoes she’d been eyeing in the window. But it turns out Black people aren’t allowed to try on shoes at the shoe store. Ella Mae’s mom traces Ella Mae’s foot on a piece of paper and they determine what size to buy based on the tracing. The experience diminishes the joy of new shoes for Ella Mae, but it also inspires her. She and a friend begin to do odd jobs for a nickel and a pair of outgrown shoes. They invest the money in polish and laces, scrub and shine the pairs they’ve collected, and invite anyone to come in and try them on before purchasing, asking for more old shoes as part of the price of payment to guarantee the goodwill can continue. A story set in the mid–20th century South underscores the unfairness of racism through a common childhood event. The story pulls no punches in describing how it feels to Ella Mae to be treated so unfairly. Ella Mae’s response is one that also underscores determination, generosity, and fairness. An author’s note provides additional historical context, as do the period illustrations. (Ages 5–8)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2016

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