The Cobbler's Holiday or Why Ants Don't Wear Shoes

2008, A Neal Porter Book/Roaring Brook Press (World)



Long ago ants only cared about two things—fashion and dancing—and stylish shoes, the link between the two, became their biggest obsession. When the ants’ only cobbler leaves town, the ants find themselves in trouble. How are stylish ants supposed to keep in vogue without new shoes? When one ant finally does the shocking thing: shows up to a dance BAREFOOT, she creates a scandal…and eventually a new fashion trend. A witty tale of change, gracefully matched with chic art depicting high-fashion in ant-sized form.


Kirkus Reviews

  • Stylish, sophisticated illustrations appropriately accompany this faux-folktale that purports to explain why ants don’t wear shoes. When ants wore shoes, they required three pairs to fit their six feet, and required several sets for various occasions. When they attended parties, for example, they left their outdoor shoes at the door and switched to their dancing shoes. Making and repairing all those shoes kept the local cobbler very busy and made him “very rich.” When he takes a vacation and then stays away enjoying his retirement, however, shoes begin to wear out, causing great distress. Finally, one young fashionista boldly dances barefoot. The other ants, shocked at first, follow suit, and immediately feel lighter, more relaxed and nimble, finding that “barefoot, they could dance with perfect grace.” The droll images feature expressive faces above haute-couture–clad thoraxes; Yelchin’s ants pose against clean white space, shifting perspectives and placement adding to the fun. Math exercises, as well as some conclusions about human nature, can be extrapolated from this wry tale. (Picture book. 4-8)

Publishers Weekly

  • In his first children's book, Farooqi (translator of the Indo-Persian epic The Adventures of Amir Hamza) spins a dainty, droll fable about fashionable insects. A deadpan narrator explains, "The closets in ants' houses were once full of shoes," then launches into an equation that will make readers giddy: one ant having six feet to needing three pairs per occasion to having at least five occasions means "in short, thirty shoes. All this for one ant alone." From this math-rich premise, Farooqi builds scenarios ripe with comedy, including quarrel-filled "after-party shoe searches." Then the cobbler, made rich by the ants' fondness for footwear, abruptly retires, and how are his clients to fill the breach? Yelchin (Who Ate All the Cookie Dough?) contributes decorative initial caps and a modish Jazz Age aesthetic; his spiky-looking ant flappers and dandies sport ritzy top hats and beaded caps, tailored and fur-collared coats, monocles and, of course, elaborate footwear. White negative space, framed in a pencil-thin line, leaves the glamorous setting for readers to visualize and lets them focus instead on the fruits of Yelchin's abundant imagination. Ages 4–8.

Mary Jean Smith in The School Library Journal

  • "This droll fable tells how stylish ants once needed many pairs of beautiful shoes for their busy lives and favorite dance. Because the Tick-Toe-Hip-Clog-Tock-Hop requires a pair of ants to make 36 hundred steps, the cobbler ant works around the clock and becomes very rich. When he accidentally bites his foot, he decides he is working too hard and leaves town. Unable to buy new shoes or have their old ones repaired, the fashionable ants despair. One evening, Red Ant arrives at the party without shoes—or clothes—and dances gracefully. Soon all of the ants discard their shoes. Since then, all of these tiny creatures walk barefoot. Smartly dressed ants with large heads and expressive eyes are set against stark white backgrounds. Their elegant clothes are reminiscent of Russian fashion at the turn of the last century. Rich colors and interesting details are lavished on both shoes and clothes. No comment is made about the ants giving up their clothes as well as their shoes; however, smiling faces indicate they are pleased to be rid of both. Pair this book with Tony Ross's Centipede's One Hundred Shoes (Holt, 2003) to spark a discussion about wants and needs."

Canadian Children's Book News

  • "Did you know that ants used to wear shoes? In fact, since each one had 6 feet, an ant required three pairs of shoes for every occasion – three pairs for work, three pairs for outdoors, three pairs for play, three pairs for parties and three pairs of slippers. That worked out to 30 shoes for one ant alone! Being industrious, scurrying creatures, their shoes quickly became worn. When they needed to purchase a new pair, they visited the cobbler's shop. This craftsman was the only ant trained in this very specialized work and was extremely busy and very wealthy. One day the cobbler did something he had never done before. Feeling overworked, he took a day off. He enjoyed his rest so much that he abruptly decided to retire and disappeared without telling anyone. How would these ants survive without new footwear? It took a free spirited Red Ant to point out that there was life beyond shoes. Author Musharraf Ali Farooqi has written an engaging tale about a colony of ants and lets us in on many of their secrets. Who would have thought that ants could be so interesting, let alone so fashionable? His writing focuses on one of the most minute of insects, giving them both character and purpose. American artist Eugene Yelchin's imaginative acryla gouache artwork complements the text beautifully. Readers will appreciate his illustrations of striking Jazz Age clothing and decorative footwear. They will also be drawn to the variety of facial expressions which mirror the personalities of each ant. The background is always white, leaving readers to visualize the setting while concentrating on the comings and goings from the busy ants' points of view. Holding up to our view a simple creature often ignored (except at picnics), this book gently reminds us that, more important than the style of our footwear, are the motives and wisdom which travel with us throughout our hurried days."

Carma Dutra in National Writing for Children Center

  • Any fan of dress-up will fall in love with this beautifully illustrated Chick-Fashion Story. Who wouldn’t be in heaven when wearing three pairs of shoes at one time? The story goes that once upon a time, ants had closets full of shoes. This is a dream come true for any fashionable ant. Because the ants wore so many shoes at one time, it was more than likely they had to mix and match their pairs. In addition, all the ants were obsessed with fashion and dance. The dance rage of the day was Tick-Toe-Hip-Clog-Tock-Hop. It took thirty-six hundred steps for a pair of ants to make a full turn. Of course, no one ever completed a full turn so they would start over. This created a lot of wear and tear on the their shoes. The ants were always too busy to think about running out of shoes. It didn’t take long for shoes to pile up and need repair but with only one cobbler ant in town, the unthinkable was bound to happen. Soon cobbler ant realized he was very rich and had enough money to never work again. The cobbler shop was closed for the first time ever, and cobbler ant decided to travel. None of the ants knew what to do, so they kept walking and dancing until all their shoes wore out. Now what? How can they be stylish without new shoes? One day a brave Red Ant walked in barefoot and created such a scandal shocking everyone and eventually created a new fashion trend. Up until then, no ant had ever walked or even danced barefoot. Musharraf Farooqi tells a witty tale of change and how it is OK to be different. Eugene Yelchin illustrates ant fashion shoes and clothes with wild colors and flair. Ants’ clothes are illustrated with beads, top hats and pearls. Their bodies are a golden glow. Children will delight in this make-believe fable.