The Wrong Shoes - Story Snug

The Wrong Shoes by Tom Percival

The Wrong Shoes takes a heart wrenching, emotional look at the challenges faced by children living in extreme poverty. It provoked so many different emotional responses as I became immersed in Will’s struggles against an array of problems stemming from his father’s ill health and their lack of money.

The Story: Twelve year old Will’s parents have separated and he lives in a cold flat on a housing estate with his injured dad. The only shoes that Dad can afford are cheap and are falling apart. In contrast, Will’s only friend, Cameron, comes from a different background, he lives with his parents in a nice house on the other side of town and has no money worries. After an argument with Cameron, Chris, the school bully, takes Will under his wing and slowly Will is drawn into law breaking situations. But Will still has principles and his attempt to fight back is impressively brave and courageous.

I shared Will’s anger and frustration after his haircut went wrong, when Dad borrowed from a loan shark and I was almost shouting at the book when Will got involved in shady situations with Chris. But there are also glimmers of hope. A walk in the middle of the night leads to Will meeting a magnificent owl who starts appearing when Will is in difficult situations. The owl’s presence calms Will and when he draws it for an art project his teacher, Mr Price, suggests that he enters it into a competition.

There are so many thought provoking, heart wrenching moments in this story. Will being given extra macaroni cheese in the school canteen, having to deal with a broken phone and his constant worry about where the next penny is coming from and how him and Dad are going to eat. But there are also happier moments when Will bonds with Mum’s new partner, Greg, he has dinner with his new friend Kalia and her family and we love Mr Price and the support that he gives Will who is a talented doodler.

The starkness of Tom Percival’s fabulous black and white illustrations highlight the realities of Will’s situation and draw us further into his story. They evoke so many different emotions including anger, empathy, frustration and hope. Text also emphasises Will’s important thoughts and reinforce aspects of the story for a less confident reader.

  • The Wrong Shoes thought bubble - Story Snug

The Wrong Shoes paints a stark but realistic portrait of the struggles that many children are faced with – lack of money for heating, new clothes and basic foodstuffs put many children at a disadvantage in school. It is a reminder that many children’s struggles in school are often provoked by difficult home situations and that certain behaviours can be attributed to the frustration and anger that stems from them. Will is involved in several disagreements with teachers, one culminates in him walking out of school in the middle of lessons.

This is such a thought provoking story, sadly it is the story of many children living in difficult circumstances. For me it’s a story that has stayed with me long after finishing the book.

Age Range: 8+

Author / Illustrator: Tom Percival

Tom talks more about The Wrong Shoes in the recent Big Issue interview.

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9 responses to “The Wrong Shoes by Tom Percival”

  1. Carol avatar

    A child from a middle class home has no idea of the problems of no money. It is a sad reality for many children. #MMBC

    1. Catherine avatar

      Yes, it seems that this reality is affecting more and more families 🙁

  2. Kim Carberry avatar

    I was going to say this sounds like a wonderful book but the story sounds so sad and horrible to think it is real life for many children. It sounds like a real eye opener for those who don’t have to worry about money.

    1. Catherine avatar

      It is wonderful in the way that it raises awareness about the challenges that children in poverty face but it is a real eye opener that pulls at the heartstrings.

  3. Lisa | Handmade in Israel avatar

    What a great subject to approach. It sounds like an incredible book!

    1. Catherine avatar

      It’s a story that stays with you after you finish reading, very thought-provoking.

  4. stickymudandbellylaughs avatar

    This sounds like quite an emotional read. It is super sad for any child to have to live that way. 🙁

    1. Catherine avatar

      It definitely is emotional, there were so many situations where my heart just went out to the main character.

  5. Donna Weidner avatar
    Donna Weidner