Friday, October 12, 2012

Keeper of the Soles

Title: Keeper of the Soles
Author: Teresa Bateman
Illustrator: Yayo
Copyright Date: 2006
Genre: Fiction
Theme: Shoes, Death, Cheating Death
Grades: 2-4
Awards: Horn Books Fanfare List - Best Books of 2006


Colin, a talented and well-loved shoemaker, helps put wonderful shoes on the feet of the rich and poor alike. One dark night, Death knocks on Colin’s door. He has come from Colin’s soul. Looking at Death’s bare feet, Colin comes up with a clever plan to save himself.

What plan does Colin come up with and is he successful in saving his soul? Read this book to find out.

Pre-reading Activity

Before reading this book with younger students, teachers can access students background information about shoes. Teachers can ask for students to think of as many different types of shoes they can name. There are many different answers they may give such as boots, sneakers, sandals  flip flops, high heels, platform, clown, bowling, etc. With this list, teachers can explain how some shoes are better at some times and silly during others (Snow shoes are really useful in the snow, but silly during good weather). Then explain how in the story they will be learning about a cobbler (someone who makes shoes) who makes a variety of shoes for a very special customer, for many different purposes.

With an older group of students, teachers could have a short lesson on traditional story archetypes. This would involve talking about how multiple cultures may tell stories differently but there are some categories that many different stories can fall into. For example each culture tends to have their take on creation stories, folk tales, heroic quest, etc. One example of a traditional story pattern present in many cultures is the story of someone cheating death. Examples like the story of Sisyphus from Greek mythology, the man who caught Death in a sack (from "Godfather Death" from the Brother's Grimm), the image of playing chess with Death, and even cartoons like The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy (where not only do the heroes trick the Grim Reaper out of getting souls but also force him to become their best friend forever). This story is another example of this type of story (and even references the chess with Death story on the cover).

Post-reading Activity

In the title of the story there is a joke made about the homophones soul and sole, both of which have importance in the story. Teachers of younger students can use this as a place to teach a lesson about these potentially confusing types of words. The teacher can create sentences with blanks where two related homophones would go and have students determine which spelling of the word would go where. Like in the following examples:

Death came to Colin’s home to take his _____ and walked out with new boot with a leather _____. (soul/sole)
Susan was wondering _____ that dress she wanted to _____ to school today. (where/wear)

Older students may find it fun to test their creativity by creating their own outwitting death story. What different ways can they think of tricking the Grim Reaper?

Author and Illustrator

Along with writing, Teresa Bateman also works as a storyteller and school librarian. She has written twenty books, including Red, White, Blue, and Uncle Who?: The Story Behind Some of America's Patriotic Symbols and Fluffy: Scourge of the Sea. She currently lives in Washington State. (Source: book jacket and here.)

Yayo, also known as Diego Herrera, is a renowned cartoonist originally from Columbia. His artwork has been published in the United States in newspapers, books, and magazines, and has had exhibitions in Brazil, Russia, Canada, Japan and Turkey. This children's book was the first one he illustrated. He currently lives in Montreal. (Source: Book Jacket and here.)


I found this book to be a fun story that kids would enjoy. Its pattern of Colin thinking of a new type of shoe each time Death came to the door, allows students make predictions of what kind he will try next and its nice ending of befriending Death will leave readers smiling. I think this book deserves a place in your library.

If you are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

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