Author: Susan Lynn Meyer
Illustrator: Eric Velasquez
Publisher and year: Holiday House 2015
Number of pages: 30
Genre: Historical Fiction
New Shoes is about a young African American girl, Ella Mae, who goes to the local shoe shop to get new shoes. But since it was during the time of Jim Crow laws Ella Mae was not allowed to try on any of the shoes because of her skin color. She found out that this was something that happened to every African American person, so Ella Mae and her best friend Charlotte decided to do something about it. They started their own shoe store by colleting old shoes and fixing them up to be as good as new. At their shoe shop everyone was able to try on all the shoes they wanted.
I believe that this book could function as both a mirror and window for the reader depending on their background and culture. For a reader who comes from a minority background they would view this book as a mirror of their lives since they have a personal connection to what happened in the story. A reader that comes from a Caucasian background might view this book as a window since they are unable to connect to the segregation that Ella Mae experienced in the story. For a reader that comes from a majority background for them it would be looking into what it was like during the time period of the unfair Jim Crow laws. Culture is very prevalent in New Shoes, African Americans and Caucasians are both represented within the text. Since this a historical fiction book we are able to see what it was like for both Caucasians and African Americans during the time of Jim Crow laws. I learned a lot from this book. Before I opened the book I had no idea that African Americans were not even aloud to try on the shoes they were about to purchase with their own money. Instead they had to stand on a piece of paper and use a pencil to trace their feet so they could find a good size. This book did a good job at representing how strong Ella Mae and Charlotte were to open their own shoe store since they were tired of not being treated equally.
The illustrations throughout this book are beautiful; the illustrator did an amazing job painting the emotions and small details on every page. I have noticed that in almost every picture Ella Mae is facing right and the only time she is face left is when she is told she is unable to try on the shoes to see if they fit. I found this interesting since usually if someone is going towards the right they feel less secure and if they are going towards the left they are more secure. In the image when she is facing left, for me would be a moment where I don’t feel secure at all since I’m being treated poorly. Another time I noticed that Ella Mae is facing left is the very last page where Ella Mae and Charlotte are helping a costumer at their store and Ella Mae states, “In our store, anyone who walks in the door can try on all the shoes they want” (Meyer, pg. 30). In the image it is shown how happy and powerful Ella Mae and Charlotte feel after being able to open a shoe store where everyone is treated equally.