Review: The Secret of the Tattered Shoes

Book Title: The Secret of the Tattered Shoes (available here)

Author: Jackie Morris

Illustrator: Ehsan Abdollahi

Publisher: Tiny Owl

Publication Date: September 2019

Most Suitable For: KS2

Reviewed By: Carol Carter, Librarian

Jackie Morris is best known to primary educators for 2016’s ‘The Lost Words’ and for anyone familiar with that book’s lyrical beauty, The Secret of the Tattered Shoes does not disappoint.

Reinterpreting the classic fairy tale The Twelve Dancing Princesses, The Secret of the Tattered Shoes follows a world-weary soldier as he attempts to unravel the mystery of why the twelve princesses' dancing shoes are worn out every morning despite the women being locked in a room all night. If he fails, he will be put to death, but if he succeeds, he may choose one of the princesses as his bride. The traumatised soldier has already told us that death is what he seeks, but despite the capricious nature of the princesses – engrossed in the hedonism of dancing with their own true loves, they care nothing for the many lives lost – the beauty of the underground world succeeds in beginning to bring the soldier’s shrivelled heart back to life.

Through the dream-like evocation of a magical world where fear, melancholy and darkness are as prevalent as beauty, hope and love, the words of Jackie Morris combine seamlessly with the lush layers of Ehsan Abdollahi’s illustrations. Using a rich yet muted colour palette, the entrancing images of billowing costumes, hooded eyes and glorious nature, are a perfect match for this dark sensual tale.

Part of the Tiny Owl series ‘One Story, Many Voices’, in which various authors reinterpret traditional tales, The Secret of the Tattered Shoes would make a beautiful hardback addition to any KS2 classroom bookshelf, and the depth of the text, images and themes would reward study with any KS2 year groups.


You can order The Secret of the Tattered Shoes online or from your local bookshop or library.

Many thanks to the publisher for sending us a review copy of this book and to Review Panel member Carol for reviewing it.

Where next? > Visit our Reading for Pleasure Hub

> Browse our Topic Booklists

> View our printable year group booklists.

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