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SHOEBOX SAM by Mary Brigid Barrett


by Mary Brigid Barrett & illustrated by Frank Morrison

Age Range: 4 - 8

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-310-71549-8
Publisher: Zonderkidz

All those who labor and are footsore, find relief with Shoebox Sam.

Young Jesse and Delia follow their Saturday routine assisting Shoebox Sam, a generous shoe repairman who provides footwear for those less fortunate. The children tidy his shop while seeking information from the elusive shopkeeper. Just what is the history surrounding the beautiful dance slippers he lovingly displays? The business-turned–charitable establishment, located “on the corner of Magnolia and Vine,” has an old-timey feel, but Morrison keeps specific indicators of place and time out of his illustrations. Shoebox Sam models the golden rule to all who enter his doors. His young assistants occasionally falter, rudely pointing out the doughnuts consumed or the extra clothes carried by the disadvantaged. He gently rebukes them with gentle directness. “When you’re hungry, you eat.… When you’re cold, you cover up.” Light in characterization, the message-driven tale builds to its inspirational though rather inscrutable climax. Jesse’s narration reveals his respect for his beloved mentor. “He shines old shoes and builds new soles. He shines them up fine.” Creamy tones spread nostalgic warmth within soft-edged designs, though sometimes this softness results in a lack of clarity in characters’ expressions. Elongated African-American figures move against the backdrop of shoes and mahogany shelving in a pleasing visual dance.

A heartfelt exercise in morality with occasional stumbles along the way. (Picture book. 4-8)