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Of Magic Shoes and Hats in Danalis’ “Schumann the Shoeman” and Wimmer’s “The Magic Hat Shop”

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As we celebrate all things fantastical, supernatural, magical, here are two picturebooks that capture that spirit of make-believe, while providing a timeless message of hope, endurance, and being true to one’s self – everything else is just white noise, really.

fullsizerender-2Schumann the Shoeman

WriterJohn Danalis Illustrated by: Stella Danalis
Published by: University of Queensland Press, 2009. ISBN: 0702236217 (ISBN13: 9780702236211)
Bought copy of the book.

I read this a year ago and enjoyed it tremendously. When I read Wimmer’s book below just a few days back, my mind brought me back to Schumann – I thought they would make a good pairing. Shoes and hats – they do match.

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Schumann used to be a famous shoemaker, his shoes being veritable works of art; that is, until the new shoe factory with the cheap, sensible, salmon style footwear came along driving him out of business.

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There simply is no place for a bright, free spirit like Schumann in his increasingly grey, drab, and uniform community. And so he moved far away, into a ‘forgotten forest’ where the animals in the wilderness knock on his door, asking him to make shoes for them.

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His first customer was this blue bunny who wanted footwear for her tired feet. Then other creatures – from a warthog to flamingoes to lions came right after. Somehow, Schumann manages to capture the essence of each one and comes up with just the right design, style, mixed-up colours – that represents the animal-customer fully, like no other.

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I found this to be quite a sad story, really. The ending, while ultimately hopeful, still shows that apart from these creatures in the wild, no one really understood or appreciated Schumann’s ingenuity and unparalleled talent.

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Glorious endpapers.

Yet it is also a reminder that maybe that’s not really the point of living; and that regardless of how one tries to conceal one’s gift, it will come out quite naturally, whether the world is ready for it or not.

The Magic Hat Shopimg_7751

Writer: Sonja Wimmer
Published by: Cuento de Luz, 2016. ISBN: 8416147191 (ISBN13: 9788416147199)
Bought copy of the book.

Unlike Schumann who was gradually driven out of business by his neighbours who preferred the staid, boring, safe salmon shoes – this magic hat shop just appeared from out of nowhere “right in the middle of the town square.”

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Somehow, each person who comes into the store, leaves with more than just a hat. There is a spring in their walk, a more confident lilt to their voice, a smile in their cheeks that have not been there before.

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Clearly, the ‘magic hat shop’ brought laughter and light to the town. However, a freak windstorm blew all the hats away, along with the shop and the curiously silent hat maker.

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This is where I get conflicted about the story. There is no question that I adore Wimmer’s art. I don’t think there is anyone quite like her who effectively imbues a muted magic that bleeds into the edges of one’s consciousness, finding its home there. However, I find the words to occasionally be heavy-handed and explicit, with a very clear, feel-good ending.

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But then again, during these difficult times, don’t we all need some feel-good ending? I know I do.

Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

0 comments on “Of Magic Shoes and Hats in Danalis’ “Schumann the Shoeman” and Wimmer’s “The Magic Hat Shop”

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