Sunday, December 9, 2012

tara recommends The Elves and the Shoemaker by Jim LaMarche

It is a magical thing to pick up a picture book and share a story.  Some picture books rely on a funny joke or unexpected turn of events to draw you in.  While others, like this retelling of a Brother’s Grimm story, is all about the story.  I love all kinds of picture books, but sometimes it is really nice to feel like you are relating something that could have possibly happened in true storyteller form.  This is one of those stories that you could tell without the book - but why would you want to when the pictures are so wonderful?

If you have never heard the story of The Elves and the Shoemaker, it may seem a little unconventional.  You have a poor shoemaker and his wife, who are down to their last piece of leather for their last pair of shoes, when something unexpected happens.  The leather, cut and prepared by the cobbler the night before, is magically turned into a beautiful pair of shoes – all while the cobbler and his wife are asleep.  They can’t believe their eyes, and fortune continues to smile on them when a wealthy man comes in and buys the shoes for double their price - allowing them to buy leather for 2 more pairs of shoes.

Each night, the shoemaker cuts new leather and the shoes are finished and waiting the next morning - and because of the excellent quality, there is no shortage of eager customers ready to buy them.  Soon, the couple is wealthy and has a prosperous business again.  They start to wonder who is sewing all of these shoes for them, night after night, and they decide to hide and discover the identities of their midnight visitors. ( Strange this doesn't occur to them before - after all, somebody has been breaking into their house every night . . . but, any story about elves makes it easy to suspend reality a little bit.)

Jim LaMarche fills this book with delightfully warm and richly detailed pictures that completely bring the story to life.  Just as this tale is perfect for reading out loud, the pictures form a story on their own and you can’t take your eyes away from them.  Seeing the shoemaker cut the leather with his extra-large scissors or catching a glimpse of the elf peeking through the snowy window add extra dimension and thoughtful character to the story.

I always pull this story out with our Christmas books, not just because it has a few elves in it, but also because it is a story about giving and helping each other.  It feels like the perfect reminder of how a little kindness can go a long way and how we all just need to look out for each other.

The Elves and the Shoemaker
by Jim LaMarche
published by Chronicle Books


  1. I haven't seen this particular version. I'll have to check it out!

  2. I don't know about you, but those elves look pretty scary . . .