- Age Range: 6 - 10 years
- Grade Level: 2 - 5
- Lexile Measure: 590 (What's this?)
- Hardcover: 208 pages
- Publisher: First Second (March 20, 2018)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1596439203
- ISBN-13: 978-1596439207
- Product Dimensions: 7.4 x 0.7 x 9.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 10 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #308,766 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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New Shoes Hardcover – March 20, 2018
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From School Library Journal
Gr 1–4—Francis the donkey loves to make shoes for his animal friends and neighbors, but he doesn't do it alone. The goats down the road provide wool, Nigel the squirrel monkey collects the grass that is woven into fabric, and the chickens from downstairs weave it. When Francis is approached to make new shoes for the famous singer Miss Manatee, he is over the moon until he realizes Nigel has yet to return from a supply trip. Francis embarks on his first journey into the formidable jungle to find Nigel and the grass he needs to make an unforgettable pair of shoes for his favorite entertainer. With its seamless intermingling of earth tones and lush tropical colors, and its smooth, heavy linework, this graphic novel strongly evokes picture books owing to its numerous full-page bleeds and frequent use of nonpaneled pages. The text is large and the vocabulary mostly simple. However, some pages become overcrowded as Varon squeezes in related facts. Dialogue contains elevated, undefined vocabulary such as provincial and embellishment. Realistic images of jungle animals are worked into the pages via Francis's guidebook, and the story acts as something of a guidebook itself. Plants and animals are labeled throughout, together with local naming conventions when applicable (e.g., jaguars are called "tigers" in Guyana). The spare back matter includes reference photos that inspired the story's imagery. VERDICT This simple yet fun tale will help newly independent readers make the transition to full-blown graphic novels, stoke curiosity about the jungle ecosystem, and teach about teamwork, respect, and kindness.—Alea Perez, Westmont Public Library, IL
"The reader is asked to confront surprisingly sophisticated topics, and the result is a book as charming as it is unexpected."―New York Times
"Varon (Odd Duck) introduces a rain forest setting most likely new to readers (Guyana, an afterword explains) in a story that brims with creativity and affection."―Publishers Weekly, starred review
"The dialogue effortlessly adds humor to the informational snippets in the text; a moment when a jaguar, wild hog, and howler monkey chuckle over their entries in Francis' guidebook is hilarious. A quick, informative, and overall good-hearted graphic tale that will have readers pausing to take in the colorful artistic details."―Kirkus
"This simple yet fun tale will help newly independent readers make the transition to full-blown graphic novels, stoke curiosity about the jungle ecosystem, and teach about teamwork, respect, and kindness."―School Library Journal
"Readers of Robot Dreams (BCCB 11/07) or Chicken & Cat (BCCB 3/06) will settle right in to the chipper domesticated menagerie that comprises Varon’s graphic novel casts."―The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
"This silly and entertaining early-reader graphic novel, in six chapters, is filled with informational matter about the animals of the South American jungles…Expect giggles from the newly independent readers at whom this delightfully odd graphic novel is aimed." ―Horn Book
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When Francis discovers that his supplier has been stealing from private property, things get a little tricky.
Varon captures nature and ethics, while also delivering a graphic novel that's sweet, never preachy, and downright fun. Francis is making shoes for a manatee, who happens to be a famous calypso singer.
It’s the story of Francis, a donkey who makes excellent shoes. A famous singer, Miss Manatee, has commissioned a new pair of shoes from him (I know, it’s dealt with later in the story), but his supplier of wild tiger grass, which he has woven to make the shoes, has gone missing. Francis and his parrot friend Rhoda set out to find Nigel, the squirrel monkey who gathers the grass.
There are so many charming things about this story. The animals work together to build a functioning economy where craft and creativity are valued. Everyone has different skills, and they trade what they know or produce for other things they need. The community shares enjoyable activities, like spending time together listening to music. The details of shoe making, if animals made shoes, are laid out in thoughtful detail, to inspire readers to think about how basic things are made, and how they might be different in a less industrialized environment.
There’s a voyage with plenty of adventure but not too much danger, as Francis leaves his village to travel into the jungle. All of the conflict is explainable through actions taken, and everyone has understandable motives for what they do. The length of the story — almost 200 pages — means there’s time for wonderful images of the animals spending time together or walking through the village.
There’s a love of learning on display, as Francis makes sure to take guidebooks on his journey because “he didn’t want to seem provincial if he ran into animals he’d not seen before.” (Examples from these books are quoted in the text, for additional educational value.) He’s also polite in talking to new acquaintances, gaining valuable insight from their experiences beyond his own. And he learns to swim!
I’m impressed by how well Varon draws her characters. They’re simplified, basic enough that they can be copied by young readers, but she still manages to have them express body language and common activities. Most of the pages are single images, which provides a substantial sense of place. Varon has spent time in Guyana, which inspired the richly envisioned setting, and there are a number of pictures in the back of her travels there. The reader isn’t hit over the head with lessons and morals, but there are plenty of good messages and behavior shown, whether it’s sharing with new friends or being open to new experiences. I want to live in a village like this one! (The publisher provided a digital review copy. Review originally posted at ComicsWorthReading.com.)
A delightful adventure story of friendship, kindness, loyalty and fun. I can't wait for more from Sara Varon!