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NEW SHOES FOR HELEN by Ifeoma Onyefulu


by Ifeoma Onyefulu & photographed by Ifeoma Onyefulu

Age Range: 3 - 5

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 2011
ISBN: 978-1-84780-128-9
Publisher: Frances Lincoln

Buying new shoes is a peak experience for many little girls, but selecting shoes for a wedding takes the cake. 

Helen, an Ethiopian preschooler, tries on several pairs of shoes in bright colors: red patent-leather Mary Janes, yellow thongs, shiny black pumps with bows and brown sandals with shell decorations. She isn’t satisfied until she takes a trip to the market with her mother and brother. There, Helen finds her dream shoes, intense turquoise, with rhinestone embellishments. While some adults may look askance at the child’s choice, she is convinced that they will look just right for her auntie’s wedding. The photos of middle-class urban life are a sharp and welcome contrast to many images of East Africa, but they suffer from drab design: The thin pinkish frames surrounding them don’t provide distinctive contrast from the generous white borders. Meant for the youngest readers, such lines as “Will Helen ever find the shoes she likes?” or “Lucky Helen!” sound stilted. All in all, this effort lacks the excitement of the author’s photo essays set in Nigeria, making this an additional choice for those looking for easy books about different countries.

Onyefulu stresses the similarities between kids in Africa and those in Britain or the United States in very simple language, but the quotidian treatment doesn't give the subject enough pizzazz. (Picture book. 3-5)