Image is often everything to a kid. Jacob was concerned about what others thought of him when he was only about 4 years old, and it just gets harder as he gets older. I try to tell him that it doesn’t matter what others think of him, that he should just be himself, but I don’t really remember that whole logic working on me when I was his age. Willie, the main character in Larry Peterson’s Slippery Willie’s Stupid, Ugly Shoes has a big problem. Well, two, actually. First, his feet are so slippery that he can’t keep any shoes on them. Poor Willie couldn’t climb trees or play with his friends without sliding all over the place. Fortunately, there is a solution. Unfortunately, that solution is the other problem. Since Willie’s feet are so slippery, he needs a very special pair of shoes, and they’re not exactly normal-looking sneakers.
Willie absolutely does not want to wear the shoes. He thinks everyone will make fun of him. In fact, he gets so worked up about it that he dreams everyone in town is laughing at him. They laugh so hard that catastrophe strikes- cars crash, planes fall out of the sky, and mayhem ensues. All because of his stupid, ugly shoes. Of course, in reality, his shoes are not nearly as bad as he thinks they are, and all of this friends end up thinking they’re super cool. Willie has a great day at school, and at the end of the day he takes off his shoes and lets himself slip around, because even though the shoes help him have a “normal” day, he still needs to be himself sometimes, slippery feet and all.
Slippery Willie’s Stupid, Ugly Shoes is a funny and entertaining book for kids of all ages. The lessons are obvious, but presented in a way to which children can relate. The story teaches children that everyone is different, but those differences do not define who they are. It also teaches them that sometimes we make a bigger deal about things in our heads than they are in real life. I do this all the time. I always think of the worst case scenario and get all worked up about something, when in reality, it turns out to not be a big deal. It’s kind of too late for me (although I am working on my issues), but since Jake is just like me, I’m really trying to head off the problem before it gets out of control with him. Since he is a big reader, books like Slippery Willie’s Stupid, Ugly Shoes really help.