Review Detail

Young Adult Fiction 3936
Coming of Age in the 50s
Overall rating 
 
4.0
Plot 
 
N/A
Characters 
 
N/A
Writing Style 
 
4.0
In the 1950s, Franny must cope with coming of age and do so with a birth defect—a crippled foot. She hates the orthopedic shoes she must wear as much as she hates the limp that defines her as “different.” Putting on a good front, Franny focuses on getting along with others and being exceptionally generous. But when freshman year of high school begins, new pressures pile on her. The final straw occurs at her first high school dance. After shopping for a special dress and buying “normal” new shoes, Franny’s mother stuffs the offending shoe with toilet paper to help it fit. At the dance, to Franny’s mortification, the toilet paper shifts and trails out of her shoe while she is dancing with her crush, Mikey. Horrified, she flees to the restroom, and later her bedroom where she insists on remaining.

Her family struggles to cope with Franny’s depression. Eventually Franny exits her room, but she is no longer the cheerful, friendly girl she once was. Her mother, in a last ditch effort to help her daughter, finds an article in a magazine about a famous shoe designer from Italy. She sends the designer a letter requesting his help in making a pair of shoes for Franny. When he invites Franny to Italy, the girl begins a journey of self-discovery that will change how she views herself.

The Lovely Shoes by Susan Shreve poignantly captures the pain of adolescence and the perceived ostracism of being different. Although the book is intended for grades 4-7, the book is better suited to 7-9th grades, as it deals with some themes an elementary student will not relate to.

The snippets of Italian culture and 1950s nostalgia add interesting touches for the curious reader. Humor brightens the book and lends perspective, all while Shreve captures spot-on the attitudes and feelings of the young adolescent. Perhaps this story rings so true because the book is based on Shreve’s own experiences growing up as a polio survivor. A touching story of family, love, fashion and growing up.
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