Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Shoemaker and The Elves

Written by The Brothers Grimm, Illustrated by Adrienne Adams
Children’s Picture Book (Fairytale): K-3
Stars: 3 (out of 5)

Summary: This is a story of a poor shoemaker who is visited each night by two elves that help him sew elaborate pairs of shoes that he then sells to make money. In the end, the shoemaker and his wife, whom are now well-off, reward the hard-working elves with outfits to show their appreciation.

The illustrations in this story, while simplistic, appearing to be created with simply colored pencils and a touch of watercolor, are very unique to this story alone. This story, while very interesting and an enjoyable read, seems to have several downfalls. First, there is a very stereotypical depiction of elves. This is not necessarily a negative aspect, but can be viewed as only confirming stereotypes. The way that the author describes the two elves is as “two little men with no clothes on.” The book also talks about Christmas and Christmas Eve, which is always something difficult to include in the curriculum. For me, anytime I see the mention of Christmas in a story, I tend to shy away from incorporating it into me classroom for obvious reasons.

While the story focuses on economic prosperity and a lack there of, I am a bit concerned about how the shoemaker comes to be seen as successful. Ultimately, the shoemaker begins as a poor man who has nothing but a single piece of leather, and through hard work, becomes wealthy. I think that this would be a great message for students, but my concern is that the shoemaker himself is not the one who creates success for himself. In the end, it is the elves that swoop in and make him a wealthy man, which I worry could be perceived by the students in a different way. Instead of being an uplifting story about how hard work pays off, the students might interpret it to mean that you won’t be successful unless you get some outside help. Instead of utilizing internal strength and perseverance, they might think that you need an excellent external influence to create success for you. In the end though, I do find it important and noble that the shoemaker and his wife show their appreciation and gratitude by sewing the elves clothing from Christmas.

My biggest concern with this story is the ways in which some of the events or messages could be misinterpreted. I also did not find the characters to be too relatable or interesting. Would I personally use this story in my classroom, probably not. 

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