The Red Shoes

The Red Shoes

by Gloria Fowler, illustrated by Sun Young Yoo

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. The 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.” The Red Shoes Endpaper junkies will adore them, and so will the shoe fiends among you. (I’m looking at you, Sallie.) The Red Shoes 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. The Red Shoes The Red Shoes 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. The Red Shoes 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. The Red Shoes The Red Shoes 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.



  • Posted January 21, 2014 at 6:43 am | Permalink

    Gorgeous! So much can be said in simple ways. Thanks for sharing this, Carter.

  • Posted January 21, 2014 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

    Of course! Thank you for reading!

  • Posted January 21, 2014 at 6:55 am | Permalink

    How beautiful. And fascinating that a story about red shoes is done in B&W. Thanks for sharing.

  • Posted January 21, 2014 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

    I know, right?! So impressive and lovely.

  • Posted January 21, 2014 at 8:10 am | Permalink

    Love those illustrations!

  • Posted January 21, 2014 at 8:17 am | Permalink

    Nice review and the book looks so beautiful. I only wish I could zoom in on the artwork :) I will have to go find the book now, thanks!

  • Posted January 21, 2014 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

    It’s worth a MUCH closer study than my quasi-lame photos!

  • Posted January 21, 2014 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    Enjoyed your review and Sun Young Yoo’s comments about why he likes black and white illustrations. Imagination is more powerful! Wise artist! The book is stunning!

  • Posted January 21, 2014 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    What an exquisite book! Thank you for a lovely post, Carter!

  • Posted January 21, 2014 at 10:38 am | Permalink

    Melted on the title page! This is also a story I would love to illustrate, dang!

  • Posted January 21, 2014 at 6:53 pm | Permalink

    Do it! Is the HCA version in the public domain?! Try it!

  • Posted January 21, 2014 at 10:39 pm | Permalink

    I am a big fan of the Archers movie. Do you know it?

  • Posted January 21, 2014 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    I love it. Thanks.

  • Posted January 21, 2014 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

    This is beautiful. Thank you for sharing this.

  • Posted January 21, 2014 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

    I’m so pleased that you featured this book in your blog, Carter. Here’s yet another way to tell a beautiful story. Plus, with the review you did, there’s a story within a story. You did an excellent job and, quite obviously, so did the author.

  • Posted January 21, 2014 at 6:53 pm | Permalink

    Thank you! What a kind and wonderful thing to say!

  • Posted January 21, 2014 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

    You’re welcome. I generally don’t say kind and wonderful things unless I really mean them.

  • tinamcho
    Posted January 22, 2014 at 12:27 am | Permalink

    Beautiful illustrations! Thanks for sharing this work!

  • Posted January 22, 2014 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    Oh my goodness. This is so beautiful. I’m curious to see how the ending is dealt with in this version. (And to see the pictures in person!)

  • Posted January 23, 2014 at 3:14 am | Permalink

    Fantastic illustrations!, great work as always!
    orthotic devices

  • Posted January 25, 2014 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

    It’s awesome, but do you have anime manga book?It would be cool to.

  • Posted January 27, 2014 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    Hi Carter,
    I’m a big fan or your selections. Always try to find them at my local library right after reading your blog, often without success. Thanks for sharing your finds. I’m on a quest for the awesome ones myself at my blog.
    Daniela Weil

  • Posted January 28, 2014 at 6:00 am | Permalink

    These illustrations are stunning, there’s so much self control involved in not colouring everything in..something I struggle with but would love to be able to achieve! Thanks Carter, you’ve brought so many books to my attention that I now love!

  • Posted January 30, 2014 at 12:37 am | Permalink

    Really amazing illustrations!

  • Posted August 6, 2014 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    nice one!