cover image The Red Heels

The Red Heels

Robert D. San Souci. Dial Books, $15.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-8037-1133-4

Its superb storytelling matched by accomplished art, this memorable picture book takes its inspiration from New England folklore traditions. Jonathan Dowse, an itinerant shoemaker in colonial New England, is lost in the woods when he comes across the cottage of the beautiful, green-eyed Rebecca Wyse. He loses his heart to her as he cobbles her a pair of shoes that use the seemingly new red lacquer heels passed down to Rebecca from her mother and grandmother--even though he has heard such heels are the sign of a witch. Rebecca does have special powers, rising into the air to dance, but he appreciates them just as she appreciates his gifts: ""Thou put some new magic in these shoes of mine!"" she proclaims as the two dance ""like skaters on ice, across the moon-silvered surface of the pond"" and then whirl through the air, far above the woods and village. Their nightly dances across the starlit sky end when Jonathan takes up his profession once more, but San Souci (The Talking Eggs) brings them together again in his story's satisfying if expected ending. Kelley's (The Christmas of the Reddle Moon) atmospheric pastels range from closely focused still lifes and portraits to exuberant, ethereal renderings of the soaring couple. Like the narrative, the art answers some questions about Rebecca and her powers, but leaves others enticingly open, inviting youngsters to interpret as they like. A tantalizing tale. Ages 5-up. (Sept.)