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The Blue Shoe: A Tale of Thievery, Villainy, Sorcery, and Shoes [Paperback]

Roderick Townley , Mary GrandPre
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

Feb. 8 2011
Far away, in a remote mountain village, there is a cobbler's shop. And in the window there sits a shoe. Not just any shoe, but a jewel-encrusted blue shoe. When the shoe's largest jewel goes missing, the cobbler's assistant, Hap, is blamed and banished to the dreaded Mount Xexnax. Legend has it that no one has ever returned from Xexnax, but Hap Barlow isn't just anyone, and legend is about to be rewritten.

Perfect for middle graders, The Blue Shoe has the feel of a modern classic. You'll read the first page and grin, and then chortle, and then heave a happy sigh as you settle in for what will clearly be a great yarn. Told with a bit of a wink, this quirky gem is full of heart, and utterly winning.

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About the Author

RODERICK TOWNLEY has taught in Chile on a Fulbright Fellowship, worked in New York as a journalist, and now writes from his home in Kansas. His books have received many stars and accolades, including BookSense 76 picks and BBYA selections. You can read more about Roderick Townley and his books at rodericktownley.com.

MARY GRANDPRÉ is perhaps best known for creating the jackets and illustrations for the Harry Potter books. She has also illustrated many fine picture books including Jack Prelutsky's The Carnival of the Animals on Knopf's Fall 2010 list. You can read more about Mary GrandPré's work at MaryGrandPre.com.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

One


Not long ago, in the sunny mountain village of Aplanap, famous for its tilted streets, cuckoo clocks, and Finster cheese, there stood a small shoemaker’s shop. And in the window of that shop was a shoe that fit nobody.

Of course, since it was only one shoe, it was doubly useless.

Yet everyone who learned of this shoe was seized with the desire to own it. Curious travelers with hard money winking in their pockets came from as far away as Doubtful Bay. But the shoe was not for sale.

You’re thinking this must have been a remarkable shoe.

People lined up outside the shop just to look in the window. Even the town’s mayor (whose name is far too long and important to write out here) felt tempted by it. He was an impressive man, but not an easy man to impress. Passing in his carriage, he’d have the coachman slow down so he could catch another glimpse of the famous object, with its sapphires, opals, and moonstones flashing in the sun.

Did I mention the shoe was covered with precious stones?

Precious and semiprecious, and a few (like the beads of Murano glass) merely beautiful. And all of them blue. Blue of every description, from palest aquamarine to clearest azure to dramatic cobalt to assertive navy to deep-thinking indigo.

A blue shoe.

The shoemaker--I should say this right away--was a simple man, nothing remarkable about him at all. Every-one called him Grel, which was his name, or as much of it as anyone bothered to remember.

Grel was neither very short nor very tall. He wasn’t particularly thin, nor exactly fat. Neither ugly nor handsome. He had a beard (now threaded with gray), but most Aplanap men wore beards. He was poor, but not poor enough to be arrested.

Did I mention that the poor were arrested in Aplanap? They were. Well, beggars were arrested. You could be poor all you wanted and you’d be left alone. But if hunger forced you into the streets to beg for a coin, large men would come and cart you to jail, and from there, they’d ship you to the north side of the next mountain, a peak so tall its top was perpetually covered in snow and surrounded by swirling clouds.

There were many superstitions about this mountain. It stood in plain sight, and yet you couldn’t see the top of it. At night, it was even more mysterious, because the peak pulsed with a dull orange glow. No doubt the light came from the campfires of the beggars condemned to live there, but you know how people are. They’ll believe anything. Some said the mountain was really a volcano. Others claimed that trolls hopped about among the crags and spent the nights forging weapons over a great fire. Still others believed the ancient myth about Xexnax, the goddess the mountain was named for. The glow, they said, came from her kitchen, where she roasted the poor doomed souls who’d been sent there.

Whatever the truth, you didn’t want to end up on that mountain.
It was a good thing Grel had Hap Barlo, a young boy he’d taken in as an apprentice. A slim thirteen-year-old with nimble hands and likeable eyes, Hap was smart in ways that Grel was not--quick with numbers, sharp at business. More than once he’d saved his absentminded master from ruin.

They were never far from ruin as it was. Cobblers were always needed but badly paid. Grel and the boy often lived on crusts, although they could usually indulge in a slice of schnitzel on Sundays, sitting at a little table in front of the shop, with Grel’s dog at their feet. The dog’s name was Rauf, since that was the only word the creature knew. Rauf sometimes spoke his word to the passing cats, but he lacked conviction, and the cats paid no attention.

On summer evenings, Rauf would lie contentedly in the dust, one eye closed, the other watching his master and a few old friends playing a game of Plog after the day’s work was done. There was something reassuring in the clack of wooden pieces on the game board and the smell of pipe smoke spiraling over Grel’s head.

As far as the rest of Aplanap was concerned, Grel might have been invisible. Even regular customers would have a hard time placing him had they seen him outside his shop, without his work apron, walking the tilted streets. Grel didn’t mind. He had no desire for recognition. He cared about his sleepy dog, his alert young apprentice, and his art. For he was an artist among cobblers. He might seem vague as he pottered about his shop or rummaged around looking for his glasses, but when it came to work, his concentration was unmatched. The idea of tearing the stones off the fabulous shoe and selling them would never occur to him, any more than he’d tear out his own eyes, especially since, long ago, with excruciating care, he had placed the jewels there himself.

Grel often thought back to that rainy evening when a weirdly tall stranger, his face shadowed in a cowl, had slipped into the shop at closing time. What struck the shoemaker at once were the man’s eyes, which glittered with a cold blue fire. Wherever they alighted, they lowered the temperature by ten degrees.

“What can I do for you, sir?” Grel said.

“Ye make shoes, don’t ye?”

Grel did not understand at first. The man had a strange accent, a nasal tone, and a voice that started with a grumble in his throat.

“Shoes, you say?”

“Shoes! Shoes! Ye are deafen?”

“Shoes! Yes, the finest.”

“Then make me one!”

“Make you?.?.?.?one shoe?”

The stranger ignored him. He pulled out a sketch and laid it on the workbench, smoothing its creases with his skinny hand.
One shoe. That’s what he wanted. And he paid in advance. Grel watched the heavy coins clink on the wood.

“But that’s too much!” he faintly protested.

The man’s eyes held him. “Ye complain I pay too much?”

“But it’s only one shoe. I should charge you half as much, not?.?.?.”

I mentioned, didn’t I, that Grel was not a sharp
businessman?

More coins clinked on the wood.

“Thinken me,” said the stranger in a dark voice, “ye’ll earn every groat.”

Grel shook his head. It was ten times what he generally received for his work. And only one shoe! What could be simpler?


From the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Courtesy of Teens Read Too Jan. 29 2010
Format:Hardcover
One evening in a small town called Aplanap, a mysterious stranger approaches the shoemaker, Grel, to make a blue shoe entirely out of strange blue gems. The shoe must never be sold or damaged.

When Hap, the shoemaker's apprentice, steals a gem from the blue shoe to save a poor beggar girl, he is sentenced to the mountain Xexnax. There he finds a race of people called Auki's working in the mines. Aplanap's mayor and his wife are after the biggest blue gem of all. But a rebellion is underway and it's up to Hap to lead the fight and save his friends and the town.

With a title that includes "Thievery, Villainy, Sorcery, and Shoes," you know you can't go wrong! THE BLUE SHOE is a magical story that reads like a fairy tale. There's lots of adventure, a bit of romance, and magic.

Hap is a likable hero and his friend, Sophia, is full of spunk, and they were a delight to read about. They are surrounded by a fun cast of characters that won't soon be forgotten.

The book is printed in blue ink and filled with illustrations from Mary GrandPre, which I thought added to the magic of the tale. This is one I could see being read aloud to all ages - it has the feel of an old-fashioned tale that has been passed down and re-told and needs to be shared.

THE BLUE SHOE will appeal to both readers of fantasy and those who enjoy action-packed adventures.

Reviewed by: Sarah Bean the Green Bean Teen Queen
Was this review helpful to you?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.9 out of 5 stars  9 reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gems, Not Suede Nov. 8 2009
By Kate Coombs - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
The Blue Shoe gets off to a good start--we have a boy named Hap who is caught stealing and nearly sentenced to exile on terrible Mount Xexnax, except that kind-hearted cobbler Grel intervenes and takes him on as an apprentice. The cost? Grel must make free shoes for the greedy mayor's wife for the rest of her life. Or, as he sweetly points out, the rest of his life!

The cobbler has a secret. One night a stranger came to him and asked him to make a very special shoe, giving him the dimensions and a bagful of gleaming blue gems to use for decorating it. Grel completes the shoe--his masterpiece--and hides it, but the stranger never comes back. Eventually the townspeople find out about the shoe, which leads to trouble.

Now, the reason Hap became a thief at all is because in the village of Aplanap, begging is not allowed. Beggars are punished by being sent to Mount Xexnax. Hap's own father has been sent there. So when he sees an odd young girl begging, he tries to stop her for her own protection. First he gives her food; later, when she is thrown in jail, he trades a jewel stolen from his master's blue shoe to save her. But Hap ends up being sent to Xexnax himself, accompanied by a determined girl named Sophia.

Xexnax turns out to be a prison camp with a mine, where prisoners and a captive group of dwarf-like beings called Aukis dig ever deeper, seeking the mythical blue stones. Evil Mr. Slag runs the camp, in cahoots with the mayor of Aplanap, who is just as greedy as his wife. But Hap has other things on his mind. He believes that somewhere in the camp, he will find his father.

Did I mention that The Blue Shoe is something of a morality tale? The village of Aplanap, formerly a pretty place, is soon being punished for their mistreatment of the poor. It seems the hand of a goddess is involved. And the prisoners are about to rebel...

One of the nicest thing about the book is Hap, who is an appealing main character, a determined boy who focuses on the things that really matter in spite of all the chaos going on around him. The blue shoe itself is also intriguing, practically another character.

Mary GrandPre, known for her Harry Potter jacket art, provides illustrations that further support the tale.

However, I liked The Blue Shoe a lot more during the first half, before Hap is sent to Mount Xexnax. Once Hap gets to the prison camp and down in the mines, the book starts feeling like Hogan's Heroes, only without the jokes. And the story's ending is a scattered mix of comeuppance and deus ex machina. Still, fast-paced enough to be fairly entertaining, The Blue Shoe is a nice read for fantasy fans.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Courtesy of Teens Read Too Jan. 29 2010
By TeensReadToo - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
One evening in a small town called Aplanap, a mysterious stranger approaches the shoemaker, Grel, to make a blue shoe entirely out of strange blue gems. The shoe must never be sold or damaged.

When Hap, the shoemaker's apprentice, steals a gem from the blue shoe to save a poor beggar girl, he is sentenced to the mountain Xexnax. There he finds a race of people called Auki's working in the mines. Aplanap's mayor and his wife are after the biggest blue gem of all. But a rebellion is underway and it's up to Hap to lead the fight and save his friends and the town.

With a title that includes "Thievery, Villainy, Sorcery, and Shoes," you know you can't go wrong! THE BLUE SHOE is a magical story that reads like a fairy tale. There's lots of adventure, a bit of romance, and magic.

Hap is a likable hero and his friend, Sophia, is full of spunk, and they were a delight to read about. They are surrounded by a fun cast of characters that won't soon be forgotten.

The book is printed in blue ink and filled with illustrations from Mary GrandPre, which I thought added to the magic of the tale. This is one I could see being read aloud to all ages - it has the feel of an old-fashioned tale that has been passed down and re-told and needs to be shared.

THE BLUE SHOE will appeal to both readers of fantasy and those who enjoy action-packed adventures.

Reviewed by: Sarah Bean the Green Bean Teen Queen
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enchanting Review: The Blue Shoe Nov. 23 2009
By Enchanting Reviews - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
THE BLUE SHOE: A TALE OF THIEVERY, VILLAINY, SORCERY, AND SHOES
RODERICK TOWNLEY
Illustrated by Mary GrandPré
Middle Grade Fantasy

Rating: 4 Enchantments

An engaging fantasy read, THE BLUE SHOE is a well told story featuring Hap, a young cobbler's apprentice who ends up sent away to the frightening Mount Xexnax, when he tries to save a mysterious beggar from the same fate. Actually Hap doesn't mind, as he hopes he'll be reunited with his father who was sent there a few years earlier because of his own begging, but what Hap stumbles upon is something he hadn't expected. And it's not going to be easy to break out and return to the small town of Apalanap.

Imaginative characters, setting and storyline, readers looking for a fun and intriguing middle grade fantasy read shouldn't miss this one. I especially loved the crazy characters of the Mayor and his wife and the way the story flipped from what was happening with Hap and Sophia back to what was going on in town. I liked how the sand that covered the town from a storm turned to glass shortly after Hap's departure to Mount Xexnax, making things difficult for the more evil characters to move around the small town. That scene is almost comical and very laugh out loud worthy and is hands down one of my favorites in the whole book. Told mostly by a mysterious narrator, THE BLUE SHOE moves at a good pace. Hap's biggest mistake is trying to save the mysterious beggar in the blanket from ending up at Mount Xexnax, a decision that has him stealing a stone from the mysterious blue stone. A move that not only ruins the shoe, but gets him exiled to Mount Xexnax in place of the beggar. And when his crush Sophia tries to break him free from prison the night before, Hap refuses, instead wanting to be reunited with his father. Sophia isn't so easily swayed and ends up stowing away on the wagon and going with, which is one of my favorite scenes in the book. However, Mount Xexnax is worse than all the stories and rumors made it seem and Hap suddenly finds himself appointed the one to save everyone there, especially when the guards find Sophia and hold her hostage in the main building, which is where THE BLUE SHOE really becomes a page turning read as you hope Hap can find Sophia and escape without capture.

Roderick Townley's books have received many stars and accolades. [...]

Mary GrandPré is perhaps best known for creating the jackets and illustrations for the Harry Potter books. She has also illustrated many fine picture books. [...]

Lisa
Enchanting Reviews
October 2009
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A riveting fantasy March 20 2010
By Midwest Book Review - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Roderick Townley's THE BLUE SHOE: A TALE OF THIEVERY, VILLAINY, SORCERY AND SHOES tells of one Hap Barlo, who is in jail for thievery facing banishment. Volcanoes, trolls, and Hap's dreams of rescuing all the villagers banned before him led to danger in this riveting fantasy.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Flamingnet.com Top Choice Book-unique, extraordinary March 16 2010
By Flamingnet Teen Book Reviews - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This book is one of the most
wonderful books that I have read in a very long time. Just
from my sentence you should tell that this book is a MUST
read for all of you out there that like adventures but
slightly mysterious stories then this is the book for you.

The book The Blue Shoe by Roderick Townley is an engaging
and fun story about a poor boy named Hap that lives in a far
away land (not known to Americans) called Aplanap. The story
is mostly set in the boy Haps shoemakers shop, however this
is not Hap's shop. This shop is an older man's shop Grel's.
Grel is a man that saved Hap from going to a place where
people that do very bad things go, but you will have to read
the book before you know what place I'm talking about!! SO
GET READING!!

This book I would highly recommend to anyone,
there is some lovely dove stuff but other that that it is
all action and excitement. This book is unique because all
of the things were made up, but the
fact that they had the imagination to figure out what they
where going to do with the story line is just extraordinary.
For people who don't like that kind of thing the I would
still recommend it for anyone. If you don't like it then I am
mistaken, but if you do enjoy it then you can count it all
on me.

Reviewed by a young adult student reviewer
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