Indian Shoes

“Ray stood by Grampa, breathing in the lake air, warmed by the wind. He glanced from the glittering lights in the water to the glittering lights in the heavens.” –INDIAN SHOES by Cynthia Leitich Smith, illustrated by Jim Madsen (Harper, 2002).

The Story Behind The Story for INDIAN SHOES has already been presented with my depth and detail than I ever could offer in a CWIM article published by Esther Hershenhorn (see below), so I won’t try to repeat her fine work.

I will say that this book is special to me because in part it was dedicated to my grandparents, who were such a tremendously positive influence on my life.

Many Native readers in particular commented on how much Grampa Halfmoon (and RAIN’s Aunt Georgia before him) reflect their image of Native elders in contrast to the all-knowing Yoda so often offered by the mass media.

It has proven more challenging to sell than its two predecessors. Despite all the talk about there being a need for literary early reader chapter books, there seem to be picture book gurus, novel gurus, and overall gurus. But not many champions of books for this age group.

However, when I visit schools, it is always the most popular of my books–even with kids younger and (significantly) older than the target range.

INDIAN SHOES is one of only three (to my knowledge) children’s books about urban Indian characters, even though most Native people today live in cities.

It also is one of the very few short story collections for its target age group.

See also:


“Dear Writer: When Editorial Letters Invite Revision” by Esther Hershenhorn in the 2003 CHILDREN’S WRITER’S & ILLUSTRATOR’S MARKET. The article discusses getting past the initial fear of revision, considering new possibilities, reimagining the manuscript, reimmersing oneself in the story, and celebrating the opportunity! Pages 48-49 offer insights into the revision process for INDIAN SHOES with quotes from author Cynthia Leitich Smith and editor Rosemary Brosnan.

Children’s Author Cynthia Leitich Smith: Caring Enough to Be Candid by Alexis Quinlan, Part One. June 2002. Cynthia talks about subtlety, pushing young readers, politics in writing, authors she admires, and the ten year old within. Also read Part two: Closing the Miles in Indian Shoes.

Indian Shoes: booktalk from Nancy Keane.

Indian Shoes by Cynthia Leitich Smith: an author interview by Julia Durango of By The Book. Fall 2002.

Interview with Cynthia Leitich Smith: Indian Shoes from the Book Review Café. Spring 2002.

An Interview with Children’s Author Cynthia Leitich Smith by Debbi Michiko Florence. Winter 2001-2002. Cynthia talks about her decision to write for children and teens, her Web site, and her hobbies and inspirations

“Author Profile: Cynthia Leitich Smith” by Sharron L. McElmeel (Library Talk, March/April 2002).


Kidsreads: “short stories are written for younger readers who like rhythms and repetition in what they read.”

BCCB: “So permeated with affection that many readers will just bask in the warmth and envy Ray his cool Grampa.”

Cooperative Children’s Book Center: “An excellent collection of interrelated short stories will appeal to newly independent young readers… …adroit uses of colloquial language also earmark this fine collection.”

Kirkus: “A very pleasing first-chapter book from its funny and tender opening salvo to its heartwarming closer. An excellent choice for younger readers.”

School Library Journal: “Shoes is a good book for any elementary-aged reluctant reader, and a necessity for indigenous children everywhere.”

Multicultural Review: “These stories are goofy, quirky, and laugh-out-loud funny, and poignant, sometimes all together. INDIAN SHOES is about belonging to family and community, about helping neighbors, about learning life’s lessons, and about sometimes feeling different but most times knowing who you are in the world.”

Booklist: “The stories’ strength lies in their powerful, poignant evocation of a cross-generational bond and in the description of the simple pleasures two charming characters enjoy.”


Notable Children’s Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies; Planet Esme’s Don’t-Miss List for 2002; Finalist, Friends of the Austin Public Library Award/Texas Institute of Letters; 2003 Best Children’s Books of the Year, Bank Street College of Education; Choices 2003, Cooperative Children’s Book Center; NEA Native American Book List; 2003 Chicago Public Schools Fourth Grade Recommended Reading; Featured title, Texas Book Festival; 2004-2005 Children’s Crown Award List.