Faith on the High Wire review

Faith on the High Wire
April 25, 2011

Book Review – Slippery Willie’s Stupid, Ugly Shoes
by Kathy Vestermark

Willie is different. He has slippery feet that require him to have special shoes. He’s a special kid. Yet, he’s worried about how others will perceive him in his new, corrective shoes. This is a window into the mind of a child with differences: physical, psychological and/or intellectual.

Author, Larry Peterson, takes a look at the world of a boy named Willie who is different, not necessarily disabled, but different. Willie’s difference is enough to make him feel anxiety over what will help him “fit in”. And that is what I think makes this book special. Slippery Willie’s Stupid Ugly Shoes exposes a defect in society — instead of focusing on what makes us alike, the fact that we are all made in the image and likeness of God, we tend to focus on what makes us different. And, when we do that, we become anxious about what people think, how they will react or behave toward us, and how we will fit in.

I really enjoyed this book and only had a couple of little quirky issues with it. Without telling them that I didn’t enjoy the use of the words stupid and hate, I read this book to my girls. Here are some of their comments and my responses to them:

Meggie (age 13) — “I liked the book, but I wish that the author didn’t use the word stupid. This is one of those things that kids say to other kids to make them feel bad. He should have used a different word. Plus, I know you don’t like that word. You probably wouldn’t ever buy this book or take it out of the library for us. But, I still think it’s cute and helpful.”

Mom — You’re right, Meg. I didn’t like the use of the word stupid. It is something I don’t encourage you kids to say…also the word hate. They are strong words that spark strong emotions and tend to be used against people. So, you’re more than likely right; if I had not received this book from Larry with a request to review it, I probably wouldn’t have selected it off the shelf myself. And then we wouldn’t have read this really nice story.

Annie (age 10) — “I remember when Grace had to go to open house in the wheel chair. People showed her a lot of attention. It wasn’t all good. I guess that would make you worry.”

Mom — In the story, Willie didn’t even have the shoes on yet and he was worried. I don’t remember if Grace was anxious before the open house, but that would be a similar experience if she was. You’re right.

Grace (age 9) — I liked the story and I thought that when everyone was laughing at Willie it was sad that his shoes were so ugly. But, it really didn’t matter because they were what he needed and they helped him a lot. It was really mean to laugh at him, though, because he was finally able to do what they did. They should be happy for him.

Mom — That’s right. Lots of people, even your brother Eddie, use equipment and devices that help them access the world in ways similar to the rest of us. It doesn’t feel good at all when people stare at your brother or whisper about him. But, we know that it is due to ignorance, and if we simply introduce them to him and the way he is different and the same, it makes everyone more comfortable.

The overall impression of this book was VERY GOOD. The kids liked the story and I liked it, too. It’s a great way to introduce children to the fact that kids with differences or disabilities can feel a little anxious about how others with perceive them and accept them. If you can tolerate the words stupid and hate in the story, or substitute other words for pre-readers, you’ll enjoy using this book as a conduit to talking to your children about people who are different.

Slippery Willie’s Stupid Ugly Shoes, by Larry Peterson, has also received the Catholic Writer’s Guild Seal of Approval.

The "Age of Safeness"

Ah yes, from the “Ice Age(s)” (it is said there were five of those) to the “Stone Age” to the “Age of Enlightenment” and the “Age of Reason” we have moved steadily onward and we, the people of today, are blessed because we are experiencing a whole bunch of “ages” in our own lifetime; the “Jet Age”, the Space Age”, the “Nuclear Age”, the “Information Age”, and let’s not forget the Atomic Age”. Well, it looks like we have been privileged to add another “age” to our resumes—the “Age of Safeness”.

The “Age of Safeness” is the age where “safeness” rules and is held in place by its lynchpin, some strange beast called “zero tolerance”. Of course, we all want to be safe and to feel safe but in our enthusiasm to grab the brass ring of complete safeness are we trading away some personal freedoms? We must be very, very careful—especially when it comes to our children. I mean, do we want them to grow up to be so paranoid about safety that they will be wrapping their kids in some not yet invented bubble wrap that is virtually impenetrable against all forms of danger?
Amazingly, under the “safeness umbrella for children”, the New York State Legislature passed a law in 2009 to close a loophole that allowed too many indoor camp programs to operate without “oversight” (translated that means they were getting away without paying fees). So, in response to this law, the NY State Health Department made a list of “risky recreational activities” to keep kids safe. Such games as Wiffle Ball and freeze tag and kickball and Red Rover are now considered “dangerous and pose a significant risk of injury”. WHATEVER!!!
Look folks, I grew up in New York City. The streets were our playground. When we played stick-ball, sewer caps and fenders or tires were our bases and we paused for a moment as cars went by.The black asphalt of the gutters was the roller rink where we skated and when we played tag we ran across streets, in between cars, climbed fire escapes and did all sorts of things that today might put our parents in jail for “child endangerment”. As long as we were home in time for dinner, all was “good”. Compared to today, I guess that would be considered extreme. If so, it seems we have reached the opposite end of the spectrum.
The point is, you have to let kids just play without your constant supervision, just a watchful eye. If their wiffle ball is taken away they will find a stick, crumple up some paper, and use that as a ball. Kids being allowed to just play allows them to grow emotionally, develops their social skills, and helps their inbred creativity begin to blossom. Kids will make up their own games and their own rules and then what they have been taught at home about fairness will begin to evidence itself. But if someone is always looking over their shoulder they are stifled.
So teach them right and wrong and fairness and good sportsmanship and then let them play. Let them learn the joy of winning and the disappointment of losing among their peers. It is good for them. They need to grow and develop and not have every breath they take monitored for safeness. A bruised knee or a bloodied nose unceremoniously received in a game of kickball will be a badge of honor. They will like it. So will their friends. And call or write your legislators and tell them to mind their own d— business. You know what is best for your kids.
BTW—there was such an uproar over the NY health Department trying to implement their new regulations they have been put on hold–the people have spoken.

Proud Book Nerd review

Proud Book Nerd
April 10, 2011

Review: Slippery Willie’s Stupid, Ugly Shoes by Larry Peterson

by Heather McBride

My Thoughts: This is a great book for children, to help them with accepting ways in which they are different from others. And for helping them to accept others’ differences from the masses, too. The story is very cute, and I think many kids will be able to relate in some fashion – what kid hasn’t been nervous about being accepted by others? Heck, what adult hasn’t worried about that from time to time? After the story reaches a positive conclusion, there are activities kids can do, and discussion questions. Both are fabulous, and really make this book a valuable addition to any child’s home library.

My Rating: 4 stars

virtual tour

Slippery Willie Wiggles and I left home to go on a virtual book tour on March 1st. Well, we have returned and for me it has been a wondrous journey and for Willie, well, he loves his “stupid, ugly shoes” more than ever.

Slippery Willie touched the hearts of many on our journey visiting more than 40 reviewers who, for the most part, loved the little guy and the message he delivered—“Yes, it is okay to be different”. Some of the words and phrases used to describe this book are; “adorable”, “delightful”, highly recommended”, “speaks to all ages”, “powerful message”, etc. I am overwhelmed.
So, if I may, I would like to thank all of you who participated in the tour and gave Willie your time, attention, and unbiased expertise. A special thanks to Nicole Langan of Tribute Books, my publisher, who set this tour up. Without her, Slippery Willie Wiggles would still be sitting on my desk and in my PC having nowhere to go.
Thank you again and may God bless all of you
Larry Peterson