published 2008, by Ammo Books
The slightest clunk in some of the words is swept up in the utter beauty of the illustrations in The Red Shoes. It’s an interpretation of the classic Hans Christian Anderson story, and I love its elegant take on girl power.
Just look at that cover. It’s evocative and inviting and so lovely that I’m not quite sure where her locks and thread intertwine and end.
The illustrations are rendered in black and white throughout, and so the peek of red under the dust jacket is exquisite. And lift that dust jacket for a taste of those red shoes. Speaking of the black and white, Sun Young Yoo says this: “A lot of people have asked me the reason why I don’t use any colors in my work. I do use colors sometimes, but I think there are a lot of colors out in the world. I don’t think I need too many colors to express my thoughts and stories. A piece of paper and a pen with black ink would be enough for me to create my own world. Instead of filling up the paper with colors, I’m inviting the viewers to my black and white world and asking them to fill up the blanks with their own colors and imagination.” Endpaper junkies will adore them, and so will the shoe fiends among you. (I’m looking at you, Sallie.) And the title, woven from needle and thread. Whoa. All of these details, and we are just now to the beginning of the words in the story. Thanks to its form, so much of the picture book experience is absorbed prior to reading a word. Its art, its heft, its detail: you’ve read so much of the story before you get to its true beginning. Then we meet Karen, the daughter of the town shoemaker. We see one illustration of their love for each other, an embrace that is so deftly drawn that it takes a long look to see where one begins and the other ends. So when Karen’s mother falls ill and passes away, the devastation is great. She’s alone in a vast empty space. And that tear. Enter a queen and a princess and a decree to hand over the red shoes or be cut at the ankle. Karen looks so alone in this forest of executioner boots. Where white has washed the previous pages, now we only see dark. And man, I love this picture. Karen’s mother, reflected in a river and reaching out for Karen’s tears. Once again, the two wrapped around one another. And then, a spark. Stitches and beads and sequins and threads. A bit of bravery and a touch of trickery.
I love that a story about a special pair of red shoes was told with an economy of color. The expressive line of a careful pencil holds all the weight of this fairy tale.
Happily ever after.