Review of Lena’s Shoes Are Nervous: A First-Day-of-School Dilemma

Lena’s Shoes Are Nervous: A First-Day-of-School Dilemma
by Keith Calabrese; illus. by Juana Medina
Preschool, Primary    Atheneum    40 pp.
7/18    978-1-5344-0894-4    $17.99
e-book ed.  978-1-5344-0895-1    $10.99

Young Lena is totally prepared, and excited to start kindergarten. She’s not nervous…but her shoes are. Lena enlists her headband (who is “friends with everybody” and “a good listener”) to talk to her shoes, and eventually, fears assuaged and with a healthy dose of reverse psychology, everyone makes it to their first day of school. The story perfectly displays humorous kid-logic; for example, when Lena’s dad (the only parent in the story) suggests he and Lena try talking to the shoes themselves, she demurs: “‘We can’t do that.’ ‘Why not?’ ‘Because they’re shoes.’” This isn’t one of those first-day-jitters stories where a grownup steps in (pun intended) to solve the problem. Lena is in control throughout, as Medina’s judiciously colorful, child-friendly (and inclusive) digital illustrations demonstrate. Squiggly lines show her shaking shoes, and a double-page spread that depicts three previous times Lena was brave, and the happy results, reminds everyone about the rewards of overcoming fears. And in the end when, yes, okay, maybe Lena is a tiny bit nervous as she approaches the school playground, that feeling is fleeting. A final page-turn shows all the students’ shoes mingling happily — a step in the right direction for first-day friendships.

From the September/October 2018 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Elissa Gershowitz

Elissa Gershowitz is executive editor of The Horn Book, Inc. She holds an MA from the Center for the Study of Children's Literature at Simmons University and a BA from Oberlin College.

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