Story: Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes by Eric Litwin, Illustrated by James Dean
Props: Shoes of several colors; 4 boxes; Kitty ears optional
Audience: Toddler Time (1 and 2 year olds)
I was introduced to Pete the Cat at an early literacy training presented by Heather McNeil in Bend, Oregon. She read the book to a group of about 30, and I’m guessing at least 25 of us went back, placed a hold, and used it with kids at the first opportunity. For me it was a Toddler Time session, and even though I think the book will go even better with 3-5 year olds, it was a hit. But it was a hollow triumph. Deep down I knew I wouldn’t be satisfied until I could do the story without the book. All I needed was to get my hands on five pairs of identical shoes in different colors.
My first thought was Crocs, because they can slip on and off and because I could conceivably fit my size 13 feet into pairs a few sizes smaller. I told my wife Tina, who spends a lot of time cruising the bins at Goodwill, and she kept her eyes open, but with no luck. And it turns out there was a bit of urgency. All four of us storytellers at my library love the book, and since we rotate as presenters, I wanted to make sure that the first time Pete the Cat was used it was during one of my weeks. I know, we’re a team, it’s all about collaboration, etc., etc….but I wanted to do that book! Sheila and I had a “Getting Dressed” theme coming up, which would be perfect; meanwhile, Brad suggested that “Sweet Treats,” which was his theme a few weeks later, could work since Pete steps in some berries. So I had to track down some shoes fast.
I ditched the Crocs plan and went to online shopping, and although we found some possibilities, nothing was cheap enough until Tina saved the day. She found some white “hotel slippers” for $2.99 each (from Cotton Age.com). I paid extra for expedited shipping and hoped that they would arrive in time for our November 16th Getting Dressed storytime. It was a tense few days, with several mid-day phone calls from work to home to see if the mail had come, and were the shoes there, and the answer was always….no. Sadly I forgot about Veteran’s Day which pushed the delivery day forward…the shoes arrived on November 16th, while I was at work. I briefly considered driving the 30 miles both ways to pick them up, but no…the paint wouldn’t be dry.
It worked out fine in the end, though. Tina fabric-painted the shoes red, blue, and brown, leaving two white. My heels stick out over the end, but that's no problem. And I used them in Toddler Time the next week. As Pete (with kitty ears) in white shoes, I sang the little song (“I love my white shoes…”), then at “Oh no!” I stepped into a box with red paper and a picture of strawberries. The slippers were easy to slip off and I stepped into the red ones that were in the box already for the next song: “I love my red shoes…” And the same for Blueberries and Mud. The only tricky part was putting the boxes up on a stool, so all could see, and not falling off. I considered actually using wet slippers for “I love my wet shoes…,” but decided just to call them wet. For preschoolers, I might consider getting them wet with a squirt bottle, but for ones and twos better judgment prevailed.
And to my credit, I did offer the shoes to Brad and Sheila for their “Sweet Treats” theme, but they went with other books, probably because they just wanted to be nice to me. But now I’m looking at what’s coming up in winter and spring. Nothing really has a place for Pete in our Family Storytime, but our K-2 Book Adventure in April is “Cats and Dogs”…it’s an older crowd, but I don’t think you’re ever too old to watch a cat step in stuff, wear colorful shoes, and sing a silly song. Meanwhile, I’ve made a note to myself in the schedule file: “Fall Storytimes: include Cats or Getting Dressed; Assign self to either or both; Don’t forget Pete!”
For another way to present Pete the Cat, go here.