Go Go and the Silver Shoes

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Penguin Books, published March 2018

I’ve always been interested in the idea of shoes in stories.  From Cinderella, to Andersen’s The Red Shoes, Dorothy’s red shoes (in the book they were silver) in The Wizard of Oz and even Puss in Boots.   And think of the importance of our first pair of shoes - often a baby’s first pair of shoes is a sign of independence, of their ability to ‘step out’ into the world.

Shoes in fairy tales often have some kind of magical, transformative power.  Sometimes they help a character find grounding in the world, and change a character’s life in some way.  They also have a contradictory aspect to them - shoes restrict/ bind our feet, but they also protect our feet as they help us to move across the world, and help us to where we need to go in life.  Getting new shoes can be seen as getting a new support system to help us get to where we want to go and to feel protected/safe.  Shoes are also like a sign/symbol of independence - we ‘step out into the world’ in our shoes.  I’ve always wanted to write a book about shoes!

A few years ago, I saw a shoe abandoned by a creek.  It was a sneaker, not sparkly like the ones that Go Go has.  I wondered how this shoe had got to the creek, and I thought about its journey, and the journey of the child who must have owned it.

At around the same time my friend Andrew Joyner mentioned that he had a niece called Go Go.  (Her real name is Marigold.) I loved the name so much, and although I have never met the real Go Go, I imagined a little girl who was quite strong and independent having a name like that. Maybe a bit of a non-conformist. A character started to form in my mind.

I’ve always been interested in the idea of fate, and how sometimes an unfortunate event can deliver fortunate consequences.

We all want something special of our own.  Go Go doesn’t have many special things that she’s been allowed to choose, but more than that, she doesn’t really have a special friend at school who understands her.  But then the silver shoe goes on its own journey, and Go Go’s fortunes change.

When I was thinking about Go Go's character and personality, I wanted to write about someone who  remains herself in the face of judgement from peers.  Go Go is a child who uses imagination and resilience in the face of difficulty and is rewarded with friendship through the power of the shoes.

These were some of the ideas I was thinking about when I wrote Go Go and the Silver Shoes.

Here are some reviews of Go Go:

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Go Go and the Silver Shoes

When all your clothes are the hand-me-downs from your three wild brothers,  it is important to make the most of what you have.  Even though they were fourth-hand, Go Go had a knack for making them interesting and wore them proudly even if "friends" like Annabelle made unkind comments.  

And when the only new things you get are your knickers and sneakers, then it is especially important to choose the most beautiful you can find.  So when Go Go chose a pair of silver sneakers that sparkled in the sun she wore them everywhere.  She loved them and was so proud of them, even if they were a bit big to last longer.  But disaster struck the day the family went on a picnic and while Go Go and her brothers were having an adventure down through the rocks in the river, one of the precious shoes is lost.  Go Go is heartbroken and very cross as her mum points out that perhaps she should have worn older shoes that day.  

But undeterred and despite her brothers' suggestions for what she could do with the remaining shoe, Go Go is determined to wear it still - even if it means teaming it with an odd shoe and facing the jeers of Annabelle.  This is a decision that leads to an unexpected friendship as both Go Go and the lost shoe have their own journeys to make...

There is so much to love about this story... as the grandmother of one who never wears matching socks and is so unaffected by a need to be trendy, I love Go Go's independence and confidence in creating her own style and being a bit different; as one who grew up in the middle of eight boys (all but one cousins), I love that she is me 50+ years ago and all the memories that evokes; and I love Anna Walker's illustrations that are so subtle and detailed and tell a story of their own.  And I love the ending... you just never know where or how lasting friendships are going to happen.  From its sparkly cover to its stunning endpages, this is a unique story that had me enthralled to the end.

So many will identify with Go Go  and draw strength and confidence from her independence and ability to get to the nub of what being a child is about without all the frills and fripperies. 

Barbara Braxton, Teacher Librarian, M.Ed.(TL), M.App.Sci.(TL), M.I.S. (Children's Services) Dromkeen Librarian's Award 2003

 

Reviewed by Susan Stephenson, www.thebookchook.com

Many kids will understand what it’s like to get hand-me-downs or need to wear bigger shoes so they will last longer. I know they will also get the compulsion to wear gorgeous sparkly shoes even if they aren’t practical for an outing. (I still remember the impractical and impossibly gorgeous white cardigan I wore everywhere as an eight-year-old despite the temperature!) Go Go is understandable and believable, but is also an admirable character. Like all of us, things can get her down, but she is a real go-getter, and comes up with excellent positive solutions to problems.

This children’s picture book is nuanced and rewards close reading. At first glance, the story is simple. And yet there is much for children to ponder and discuss. How might Annabelle have shown she didn’t think Go Go’s outfits were interesting? What tells us Go Go is upset about her shoe? How does the shoe become a shimmering fish? How does Go Go solve the problem of only having one new shoe to wear? Godwin builds tension by letting us in on Go Go’s thoughts and revealing details that inexorably build to our understanding of what has happened. The conclusion is immensely satisfying.

I love Walker’s illustrations. They are gentle, almost delicate at times. Yet when the story changes, they can be full of energy and drama. Her figures also so perfectly capture that boneless quality children have. I really appreciate the way she reveals parts of the story that the text doesn’t specifically address, giving children opportunities to develop their inferring and visual literacy skills.

I hope you’ll celebrate this very successful collaboration between two of my favourite children's picture book creators by choosing Go Go and the Silver Shoes soon for your family, classroom or library! I loved it, and will be adding it to my list of books to consider as Top Children's Picture Books for 2018.