The Lovely Shoes

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Can the right pair of shoes make *anyone* feel beautiful?

Franny is constantly embarrassed by two things in her life. One is her right foot, which curls in from a birth defect, so she has to wear ugly, heavy orthopedic shoes. And the other is her mother Margaret: beautiful, extravagant, flamboyant -- *mortifying*, in their small Ohio town.
Franny's first school dance is a disaster, so Margaret announces her latest crazy plan: They will travel ...

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The Lovely Shoes

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Can the right pair of shoes make *anyone* feel beautiful?

Franny is constantly embarrassed by two things in her life. One is her right foot, which curls in from a birth defect, so she has to wear ugly, heavy orthopedic shoes. And the other is her mother Margaret: beautiful, extravagant, flamboyant -- *mortifying*, in their small Ohio town.
Franny's first school dance is a disaster, so Margaret announces her latest crazy plan: They will travel to Italy to meet Salvatore Ferragamo, who will sculpt a pair of slippers especially for Franny. The idea is outrageous. The trip is expensive.
And the experience changes Franny's life forever.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Set in the Eisenhower era, Shreve's (Kiss Me Tomorrow) partially autobiographical novel stars ninth-grader Franny, a Midwestern girl with two "damaged" feet and a "skinny little stick of flesh and bone that was her left leg." Self-conscious about her birth defect and the orthopedic shoes that she thinks make her look "stupid," Franny is convinced she'll never have a normal social life, especially after her first attempt to wear regular shoes at a school dance leads to disaster. Then Franny's mother comes up with a brilliant plan: to write a letter to Italian shoe designer Salvatore Ferragamo to ask if he can make Franny a special pair of shoes. Shortly thereafter, Franny is whisked away on a whirlwind, life-changing trip to Florence, where she meets Ferragamo and enjoys her first romance, returning home with rekindled hope and dreams of new possibilities. Celebrating the rewards of determination and a positive attitude, this atmospheric novel credibly depicts Franny's internal growth and changing attitude. The contrast between smalltown Ohio and splendorous Florence provides an intriguing framework for the book's classic themes. Ages 9–12. (June)
Children's Literature - Michele C. Hughes
As Franny transitions from eighth to ninth grade, her deformed leg becomes more of an emotional burden than ever. She is tired of wearing ugly, orthopedic shoes, and she longs to have elegant, stylish footwear like the other girls. Her mother, a chummy and upbeat encourager of Franny, treats her to normal shoes for the big dance, stuffing one with toilet paper to compensate for Franny's abnormally small foot. But when Franny finally relaxes enough to dance with the boy she likes, the toilet paper unravels—and so do Franny's dreams of ever exchanging her awkwardness for grace and beauty. With the melodrama that only a teenage girl can muster, Franny locks herself in her room for days, wallowing in her humiliation and resolving to divorce her family. Meanwhile her mother writes a letter to shoe designer Salvatore Ferragamo, imploring him to create customized, fashionable shoes for Franny. When he agrees to do so, Franny and her mother become the first inhabitants of Easterbrook, Ohio to travel to Italy. When Franny steps outside her small life and gains a more expansive perspective, the experience transforms an awkward girl into a young woman with a new confidence and strength, setting her apart from her peers. Set in 1956-1957, this story reflects the values and ideas of its time, including Franny's father's use of the term "crippled" to describe his daughter. This book may be too quiet and character-driven for some young readers, since much of the story is about what goes on inside Franny, but adults may find it to be a bittersweet glance backward into the uncertainties and triumphs of growing up. Reviewer: Michele C. Hughes
School Library Journal
Gr 5–9—Franny lives with her mother, Margaret, who is Danish, and her father, a pediatrician. In 1950s Ohio, she knows that Easterbrook's residents are judging her mother, who is beautiful and carefree. She knows that they are also judging her; due to a birth defect, her left foot curls in, and she has always had to wear big, ugly orthopedic shoes to correct her way of walking. After a particularly embarrassing episode at her school's Valentine's Day dance, Franny simply locks herself in her room, too mortified to go to school or be seen. She blames her mother for the incident—toilet paper stuffed inside more stylish shoes to make them fit unceremoniously trails out of said shoes, but her mother has another idea up her sleeve. Margaret decides to write famous shoe designer Salvatore Ferragamo to ask him to create a last so that Franny may have beautiful shoes forever. Signor Ferragamo agrees, and she and her mother make the trip of a lifetime to Italy. It is there that the girl discovers her true self with the help of her mother, Signor Ferragamo, and a boy named Filippo. This is a sweet, touching story about differences, cruelty, and finding out who you really are. Franny's voice is authentic, and readers will experience, through her words, what it's like to feel so very different from everyone else.—Traci Glass, Eugene Public Library, OR
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780439680493
  • Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 6/1/2011
  • Pages: 256
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Lexile: 1030L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Susan Shreve is the author of twelve novels, more than twenty books for children, and the co-editor of three anthologies. She teaches at George Mason University, where she is a founder of the MFA Creative Writing program. Along with her books, Shreve also wrote short essay documentaries for the Jim Lehrer News Hour, and had one of her books adapted into an NBC series.

Susan Shreve lives in Washington DC with her husband.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 3 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 8, 2013


    I love this book!!!!!!!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 6, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Not as good as the cover.

    Francine Hall was born with a birth defect that affects her feet, but she still has a fairly nice life. That is until the Valentine's Dance at school. After a humiliating accident with her orthopedic shoes, she insists upon staying in her room for the rest of her life. But then her Mother comes up with the idea to contact the famous shoemaker Salvatore Ferragamo and ask him to make Franny a special pair of shoes. His answer comes as a surprise and Franny and her mother are soon on their way to Italy in a trip that will change Franny forever.

    This book was tedious for me to read. There's really no other way to say it. It has an adorable premise and a very pretty cover, but inside it required a lot of work to get through it. Perhaps the biggest problem was that Franny was hardly a sympathetic character. I got the impression she enjoyed feeling like no one liked her. It was hard to believe that a short trip to Italy left enough time to have such life-changing appeal to it. The mom was the only real redeeming piece of this book, as she wanted nothing more that to see her daughter happy. I appreciated how Franny's mom was very much a part of her life but also left Franny to her own decisions and growth. The story has a sweet and tidy ending, but I am not sure the YA audience is going to be interested in reading this book just because it has a cool mom in it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 6, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews

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