Meyer and Velasquez offer a tale that sets two young victims of discrimination on a path of resistance through entrepreneurship.
Set in 1950s Anytown, U.S.A., the journey begins when Ella Mae’s mother takes her to Johnson’s Shoes to buy a new pair. They watch a white girl try on pair after pair, but the sales clerk will not permit Ella Mae to put her feet in any of them. The girl shares her disappointment with her cousin Charlotte, and the two concoct a plan to reclaim their dignity. They set to work, doing chores for the odd nickel and “a pair of outgrown shoes,” ultimately setting up a community used-shoe shop in Ella Mae’s backyard. Masterful oil-based artwork evokes the perseverance and poise of two young black girls who stand up against Jim Crow discrimination. Meyer delivers her message with understatement, the “gal” the clerk calls Ella Mae’s mother slapping both her and readers in the face. The tale stands out from other stories of children overcoming obstacles, emphasizing how resistance and transformation can be found in the smallest of actions. An author’s note gives readers background on Jim Crow and the Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts.
Highly recommended; both a revealing glimpse into one aspect of America’s institutionalized racism and inspiration for kids to create their own change. (Picture book. 5-8)