Title: Thoes Shoes
Author: Maribeth Boelts
Illustrated by: Noah Z. Jones
Reading Level: Ages 5 to 8 and up
Publisher: Candlewick Press
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Summary: In Those Shoes, Jeremy dreams about having the popular pair of shoes that everyone is wearing. His grandma explains that she can only afford "needs." After one of his shoes comes apart, Jeremy is forced to wear freebie shoes from the guidance counselor, Mr. Alfrey. The "Mr. Alfrey" shoes bring on a barrage of mockery for Jeremy, driving him to purchase an ill-fitting pair of the shoes at a thrift shop. After a few days of limping and some nasty blisters, Jeremy is forced back into the Mr. Alfrey shoes. Jeremy decides to give the too-small shoes to his friend in need, after some serious soul-searching and struggle. The gesture marks the beginning of a special friendship.
Follow-Up Activity: After reading Those Shoes, it would be appropriate to conduct a class discussion about wants and needs. The students could discuss the stereotypes they have heard about poor people. We could draw from a hat to assign each student an economic status for the rest of the class. A select 10% would be allowed dress-up shoes, 20% would be middle income and wear plain shoes, while the remaining 70% would be poor and have old, worn-out shoes that are mismatched and ugly. To exaggerate the effect, we could also offer the 10% group advantages like better classroom seating and priority when asking questions. At the end of class, we could gather for a discussion to share how each group felt as a result of their shoes. What was it like to have the nicer shoes and special privileges? How did the 70% group feel? Relating our experiences back to Jeremy in Those Shoes, each child would draw two pictures. One would express how they would feel if they were Jeremy with the Mr. Alfrey shoes. The other, would show how they would feel if they were Jeremy, giving their Those Shoes away to a friend in need.
Link to Brain Pop Jr. Video about wants vs. needs.
Dollars and Cents Video: A cross-curriculum link to math while reading Those Shoes and tackling the issue of poverty with your class.
Reading Those Shoes with older students? Link to a terrific social action projects related to poverty for middle school students.