They’re shredded, stained, and stinky. A New York City kid’s favorite sneakers, or “kicks,” have lived an action-packed life.
Skateboarding, tree-climbing, and puddle-splashing have taken their toll. The young black boy is devastated when Mom declares the need for new shoes. He regales his mother with stories about each and every scuff, tear, and splatter as she drags him downtown. In the store the boy rejects all choices, but Mom is adamant. Disgruntled, the child points at random and is pleasantly surprised with the results. The shiny yellow kicks make him jump higher, run faster, and feel just right. The old red canvas shoes are finally retired to a place of honor. Verde’s overlong story stretches credulity in asking readers to believe that a young boy’s shoes will last from summer to summer without getting outgrown. It’s difficult to engage with the nameless boy, whose uneven first-person narration ranges from childlike exclamations (“It was awesome! I RULED that day!”) to adult nostalgia (“These sneakers have soul in their soles. Joy in each hole”). Kath’s ink-and-watercolor illustrations are dynamic, but the facial features are fairly generic. The “Shoe-Tying Guide” touted on the dust jacket is printed on the cover instead of on the endpapers, a design flaw that renders the guide virtually inaccessible to library users because most institutions affix the jacket to the book.
Well-intentioned but ultimately lacking in kid appeal. (Picture book. 5-7)