cover image Leather Shoe Charlie

Leather Shoe Charlie

Gyeong-hwa Kim, illus. by Anna and Elena Balbusso. Eerdmans, $10 paper (36p) ISBN 978-0-8028-5473-5

Charlie is the proud owner of a pair of leather shoes made for him by his cobbler grandfather. But customers are few, and, like many other families during Britain’s 19th-century industrial revolution, Charlie’s family must leave their village for Manchester, the only place they can find work. His mother coughs, and neighbor women recommend tea, but there’s no money to buy it and nothing to sell—except Charlie’s shoes. Sell them he does, and with the proceeds he buys the tea. South Korean author Kim’s story ends there. Does Charlie’s mother recover? What will he wear on his feet now? Does he ever get to return to his village? Kim chooses to focus on Charlie’s saintly act, and his initiative and faithfulness as a son. The Balbusso sisters depict the industrial gloom of Manchester with liveliness and sensitivity, using curving, forceful strokes to emphasize the blackened factory chimneys, dark brick tenements, and Charlie’s dreams of shoemaking, which hang like ribbons in the smoggy air. Even without the satisfaction of knowing how things turn out, readers will feel as though they’ve encountered someone they care about. Ages 6–10. (Jan.)