Emma Bowd and Tania McCartney – Wonderful Shoes

Windy Hollow Books, Australia 2021

Emma Bowd’s lilting rhymes and Tania McCartney’s jaunty images marry beautifully in this new toddler book.

Who cannot remember their children or grandchildren clomping about in the grown-ups’ shoes? Of perhaps young parents will recall doing this themselves. And this is where the book positions itself, not just with its story of all the wonderful and varied shoes in a normal life, but in the visual perspective of a child, who of course often sees the world by looking up.

Barbie spoke to Emma Bowd and Tania McCartney about Wonderful Shoes

Shoes are characterised in this book as play-things and, like the pots and pans in the kitchen cupboard, they are often as diverting for children as any bought toy. Dressing up in Mum’s or Dad’s shoes is part of the longing to be grown up whilst at the same time the longing to be forever a child, wrapped and held in love. From time to time we all try putting our feet in bigger shoes.

Both author and illustrator have delighted in the use of onomatopoeia. This is something we often see in children’s books where animals’ oinks and woofs can be joyfully chorused by listeners. In this case, though, it is the sound of shoes magnified by the child’s closeness to the ground – TIP TAP TIP TAP, CLICK CLACK CLICK CLACK. The volume of sound is reflected in the bold and colourful upper-case text.

The artist, who has also had a hand in font design and selection, has chosen a clean page look. We focus not on a myriad of details but on the child, the shoes and the adult’s shoes on disappearing legs. Countless stories will be imagined by children as they look at these pictures – speculation, identification, memories.

Emma Bowd draws on her long love of shoes in the writing of this book – shoes are a fashion Thing, but they are also associative. We remember our happy trips to the sea when we look at flippers in the laundry cupboard, we remember the fun of playing in the snow when we see the heavy fur-lined boots. Her carefully crafted text reveals her affectionate understanding of the mind of the child and the need we all have for simple joy and play.

I have no doubt that many feet, large and small, will be pleasantly itching with readings and re-readings this charming book.

Thank you to Windy Hollow Books for my review copy and to Emma and Tania for such a delightful conversation. Tania has requested acknowledgement of font designer Tom Chalky.