Indian Shoes

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Overview

What do Indian shoes look like, anyway? Like beautiful beaded moccasins...or hightops with bright orange shoelaces?

Ray Halfmoon prefers hightops, but he gladly trades them for a nice pair of moccasins for his Grampa. After all, it's Grampa Halfmoon who's always there to help Ray get in and out of scrapes — like the time they are forced to get creative after a homemade haircut makes Ray's head look like a lawn-mowing accident.

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Overview

What do Indian shoes look like, anyway? Like beautiful beaded moccasins...or hightops with bright orange shoelaces?

Ray Halfmoon prefers hightops, but he gladly trades them for a nice pair of moccasins for his Grampa. After all, it's Grampa Halfmoon who's always there to help Ray get in and out of scrapes — like the time they are forced to get creative after a homemade haircut makes Ray's head look like a lawn-mowing accident.

This collection of interrelated stories is heartwarming and laugh-out-loud funny. Cynthia Leitich Smith writes with wit and candor about what it's like to grow up as a Seminole-Cherokee boy who is just as happy pounding the pavement in windy Chicago as rowing on a take in rural Oklahoma.

Together with Grampa, Ray Halfmoon, a Seminole-Cherokee boy, finds creative and amusing solutions to life's challenges.

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Editorial Reviews

The Bulletin for the Center for Children's Books
“…this is a book so permeated with affection that many readers will just bask in the warmth [of it]…”
Publishers Weekly
Ray Halfmoon, a Seminole-Cherokee boy living with his grandfather in Chicago, is at the center of Smith's (Rain Is Not My Indian Name) slim collection of six tales. In the title story, Ray tries to take the edge off Grampa's homesickness for his native Oklahoma by buying him a pair of Seminole moccasins, which the two spy in an antique shop. But when he arrives at the store, a librarian offers the shopkeeper more money for the shoes than Ray has to spend. The boy then trades the woman his own hightops for the moccasins (which, says a grateful Grampa, "put me in the mind of bein' back home") and the woman displays the sneakers in her library, labeling them "Cherokee-Seminole Hightops." In other selections, the duo cares for neighbors' pets on Christmas Day, Grampa finds a solution to the dreadful haircut he gives Ray on the day of a big baseball game and the two share a special moment while fishing at night. Though the author affectingly portrays the strong bond between grandson and grandfather, the narrative bogs down with flowery or overwritten passages (e.g., "Ray's and Grampa's breath puffed cloudy as they trudged next door to the Wang home. In the driveway, Mrs. Wang's VW Bug waited to be freed from the snow like a triceratops skeleton embedded in rock"). Kids may have trouble sticking with this collection. Ages 7-10. (Apr.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature
In this collection of six short interrelated stories, Ray Halfmoon and his Grandfather are a part of many communities. At the local antique store, Ray trades his genuine "Indian shoes," running shoes with neon laces, to a teacher with a sense of humor in exchange for her recent purchase of some old moccasins. In their Chicago neighborhood, they save pets, whose owners are away for the Christmas holidays, when a snowstorm causes power and heat outages. Then Ray is the ring bearer at a friend's wedding but the rented tuxedo doesn't come with pants and so his grandfather lends his own. There are Cherokee-Seminole relatives back in Oklahoma whom they visit in summer. The heartwarming and humorous stories show a modern Native American boy, whose parents have died in a tornado, straddling two cultures successfully. The stories are marred by overwriting: "...sinking sun swelled pumpkin orange and sweet violet," and "Glittering snowflakes smacked wet against Ray's cheeks and clouded the mourning midday sky" are two examples. Even the comparisons are less than apt: Grandpa "snoring like a rusty hymn," a snow-covered VW Bug looking like a "triceratops embedded in a rock," or sleep knitting someone 's eyelids. Children may wonder, too, if Ray goes to school and what Grandfather does to support the two in their seemingly middle-class dwelling. However, the gentle stories depict a boy and his grandfather making it successfully in the city. The chapters are short, easy to read, and Jim Madsen's appealing soft pencil illustrations are inviting. Easy chapter books about contemporary Native Americans are hard enough to find that readers may forgive the storyteller's overblown language as poetic licenseand enjoy the theme that it is the small things in life and the friendly connections with those you love that matter most. 2002, HarperCollins,
— Susan Hepler
School Library Journal
Gr 3-5-Smith adds her voice to the precious few authors portraying realistic contemporary life for Indian children. Although she tells little of his background, the author uses six vignette chapters to introduce Ray, an affable mixed-blood Cherokee-Seminole boy living in Chicago with his Grampa Halfmoon. With humor, compassion, and ingenuity, Ray trades his own high-tops for some old-time Seminole moccasins for his grandfather, overcomes wardrobe trouble to serve as ring bearer in a family friend's wedding, and harbors a houseful of neighbors' pets during a winter power outage. He wins third place in a local art contest, inspires team spirit for his baseball team with a unique and colorful haircut, and enjoys the quiet splendor of a predawn fishing trip with his grandfather during a visit with relatives in Oklahoma. There are no mystical nature spirits or cathartic history lessons, only the everyday challenges common to any contemporary kid, as experienced by an Indian boy who is firmly grounded in his own family's heritage. With its unadorned portrayal of urban Indian life, Shoes is a good book for any elementary-aged reluctant reader, and a necessity for indigenous children everywhere.-Sean George, St. Charles Parish Library, Luling, LA Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A very pleasing first-chapter book from its funny and tender opening salvo to its heartwarming closer. Ray and his Grampa Halfmoon live in Chicago, but Grampa comes from Oklahoma. Six vignettes make up the short chapters. Among them: Ray finds a way to buy Grampa the pair of moccasins that remind him of home and Smith gets in a gentle jab at the commercialization of Native American artifacts. At a Christmas stuck far away from the Oklahoma relatives the pair finds comfort and joy even when the electricity goes out, and in a funny sequence of disasters, a haircut gone seriously awry enables a purple-and-orange dye job to be just the ticket for little-league spirit. The language is spare, clean, and rhythmic, with a little sentimentality to soften the edges. Ray and Grampa have a warm and loving intergenerational bond that's an added treat. With a nod toward contemporary Native Americans, Grampa tells Cherokee and Seminole family stories, and when Ray gets to be in a wedding party, the groom is Polish-Menominee and his bride is Choctaw. An excellent choice for younger readers from the author of the bittersweet Rain Is Not My Indian Name (2001). (Fiction. 7-10)
Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
“…this is a book so permeated with affection that many readers will just bask in the warmth [of it]…”
Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
“…this is a book so permeated with affection that many readers will just bask in the warmth [of it]…”
Chicago Sunday Tribune
This book ably springs Ray Halfmoon free from the paint-and-feathers representations of American Indians
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
"…this is a book so permeated with affection that many readers will just bask in the warmth [of it]…"
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060295325
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 4/1/2002
  • Format: Library Binding
  • Pages: 80
  • Age range: 6 - 10 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.25 (h) x 0.47 (d)

Meet the Author

Cynthia Leitich Smith has worked in law, public relations, and journalism. She is a mixed-blood member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. Ms. Smith lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband and a gray tabby. This is her first book.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Ray and Grampa Halfmoon traipsed down the cracked sidewalk of a steel and stone city. Ray tracked Grampa's steps, danced to the rat-a-tat-a-clang of a trash-can band, and skipped beneath the ruffling branches.

“Let's duck in here,” Grampa Halfmoon began, “and say ‘Morning.'”

When the wind whistled into Murphy Family Antiques, Ray and Grampa whistled in with it. At the welcome mat, Grampa said “Morning” to Junior Murphy. Ray retied his neon orange shoelaces and took a look around the store.

The shop brimmed with treasures: an autographed baseball . . . a Chinese lantern . . . ostrich feathers . . . a basket of antique buttons on a pedestal . . . a tabletop held up by a real elephant leg . . . a moose head mounted high on a wall.

Where are the coats that matched the old buttons? Ray wondered. What happened to the rest of the elephant? Who took the body of the moose glaring down?

Grampa asked, “Do you see that?”

A pair of men's moccasins waited in a glass box on a pedestal. The card read:

Grampa Halfmoon told Ray, “These put me in the mind of bein' back home.”

For a long moment, they both looked at the moccasins. But Ray's mind was mostly on their afternoon plans, and his gaze wandered to the autographed baseball.

“We'd best get a move on,” Grampa said, “to today's Cubs game.”

Grampa and Ray left the shop with matching grins. They rode the rattling elevated train to Wrigley Field and watched the Cubs take on the St. Louis Cardinals.

From the first inning on, Grampa Halfmoon told old-time Cherokee, Seminole, and family stories. “Every once in a great while, my gramps used to wearmoccasins,” Grampa said, “instead of his cowboy boots.” Grampa paused a moment to study the Cubs' scoreboard. “He used to pitch to me and my cousins, too, and Gramps usually struck us out. Then he'd jump in the lake to cool down afterward, just like us kids. The lakes back home in Oklahoma...those are the prettiest lakes I've ever seen.”

Ray frowned, thinking it over. Not far away, Lake Michigan lapped against the shores of Chicago, a fierce blue blanket alongside the park. It was a pretty lake, Ray decided. A lot bigger than the lakes in Oklahoma. More sailboats.

After the seventh-inning stretch, Ray and Grampa Halfmoon ordered hot dogs.

“Now, these Chicago hot dogs,” Grampa said, “they're dandy, but every now andthen I get a hankering for some of that crackle-fried bacon your Aunt Wilhelmina likes to make. You know, that woman fries everything she cooks. I saw her fry a whole turkey once for Christmas, and it was sure enough some big bird.”

Ray bit into his hot dog. He knew all about Aunt Wilhelmina's cooking. Ray and Grampa drove their pickup down to visit her and Uncle Leonard in Oklahoma once or twice a year. What he didn't know was why Grampa Halfmoon was thinking so hard today about Aunt Wilhelmina's crackle-fried bacon.

When the wind carried a home-run baseball into the stands, Ray almost caught it.

Cheers filled the air, but Grampa Halfmoon didn't make much of a fuss.

He was homesick, Ray realized.

Ray wiggled his toes inside the hightops with the neon orange shoelaces. He couldn't afford a bus ticket to Oklahoma, but he had an idea. Ray thought about it during the last two innings of the game and while riding on the rattling elevated train all the way back to the stop nearest his redbrick bungalow.

Meanwhile Grampa Halfmoon talked about this wild-haired mutt he'd had when he was a kid and how he'd named it Catastrophe. Grampa talked about Ray's parents, who were killed by a tornado back when Ray was just a babe. And Grampa talked about how he used to take Ray's daddy fishing by starlight.

At bedtime the wind breathed against the stained-glass pane in Ray's bedroom window. He dumped jangling money -- twenty-eight dollars and sixty-seven cents -- out of his jar and onto his woolly blanket.

It was the most money Ray had ever owned at one time, but it wasn't enough.

Or was it? The sign had said “$50 or Best Offer.” Maybe the best offer would be a little less than thirty bucks. Maybe the best offer would come from Ray.

On Monday after school, Ray marched down the cracked sidewalk. He held tight to his money jar, danced to the rat-a-tat-a-clang of a trash-can band, and skipped beneath the ruffling branches.

When the wind blew into Murphy Family Antiques again, Ray blew in again with it. At the welcome mat, he retied his neon orange shoelaces and said “Afternoon” to Junior Murphy. Then Ray breezed by the table with the elephant leg and the basket full of antique buttons. He paused behind a lady who was carrying a library book.

The lady seemed interested in the moccasins. “Do you know if these are real?” she asked. “Native American worn and Native American made?”

“I could double-check,” Junior Murphy answered, “but it might take a while.”

“I don't have a while to wait,” the lady replied. “And I don't walk by this way too often.” She hugged the library book a little tighter. “I'll tell you what. I could give you thirty dollars for them now, but that's all my budget will allow.”

Ray shook his head at the moose. Thirty dollars topped his best bid.

Just then the wind rushed in. The door sounded ka-bam! Ostrich feathers fluttered. A Chinese lantern whirled to catch on the moose's antlers. The autographed baseball splashed into the button basket, toppling the pedestal. Buttons whizzed everywhere!

Ray thought, This is my last chance. “I'll give twenty-eight dollars and sixty-seven cents for the moccasins,” he told Junior Murphy, “and I'll pick up every last button, too...

Indian Shoes. Copyright © by Cynthia Smith. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 16, 2002

    heartwarming and entertaining

    This collection of short stories about Ray and his Grampa Halfmoon is entertaining, heart-warming, and fun. The first story has to do with Ray wanting to buy a pair of moccasins for his Grampa because it reminds him of the old days, but someone else seems to want to buy them, too. The second is an amusing tale of Ray being a ring-bearer in a wedding. The third, my personal favorite, is a Christmas tale of Ray and Grampa caring for their many neighbors' pets. There are three more stories as well. Each story is filled with poetic descriptions that bring clearly to the mind of the reader the sights, sounds, and smells of Ray's world. The characters are real and each tale made me smile at the end. Very sweet with a touch of humor. As with her picture book, JINGLE DANCER, and her novel, RAIN IS NOT MY INDIAN NAME, Cynthia Leitich Smith uses lyrical language that makes her stories sing and her characters shine. I look forward to reading this book with my daughter.

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