Bookworm is a feature whereby I follow a trail of children’s books – linking them by author, illustrator, subject or any other random connection that takes my fancy.
One of the poems in last week’s Tiny Tim is about buying new shoes, which reminded me of another old favourite, New Blue Shoes by Eve Rice.
It’s a simple story. Little Rebecca and her mother go shopping for new shoes. Rebecca decides that she wants blue shoes, and the shop assistant has to get down almost every box in the shop, until they finally find a blue pair. On the way home she has second thoughts, but later decides she likes them. And that is pretty much it.
Why we liked it so much as kids, I’m not sure. Perhaps it was the story’s simple familiarity, or the precise, slightly old fashioned illustrations. I think in my case, the pictures of all the boxes on the shelves had something to do with it. Call me sad, but I think there is something a little bit magical about rows and rows of boxes, and the mysteries that they contain.
I might be imagining it, but I’m sure that when I was little, the shoe shop we went to was lined with boxes and boxes of shoes, and the staff had to climb up high ladders to bring down boxes right there in the store. There was something really thrilling about looking up at all those boxes and trying to guess which one might contain your new shoes. And you never knew what the shoes might look like until you were handed the box – it was a bit like Christmas.
I think this simple little story has a lot to say about making decisions, and learning to live with them. I remember one occasion, I had my heart well and truly set on a pair of blue Clarks buckle shoes (1980s, you know the type). My sister decided she wanted the same ones, and I grudgingly had to change my mind to red, because I always wanted to be different. I’m sure there must have been many occasions after that when, just like Rebecca, I wondered whether I had made the right decision.
It’s a lovely book, and even though shoe shops (and shoes) have changed over the years, the illustrations don’t seem dated. They look as fresh today as they did back then.