REVIEWS

Fom Kirkus Reviews: August 15, 2008
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)

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From Publishers Weekly: September, 2008
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. (Sept.)

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From The School Library Journal: September 1, 2008
Reviewed by Mary Jean Smith, Southside Elementary School, Lebanon, TN

K-Gr 3—"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'sCentipede's One Hundred Shoes (Holt, 2003) to spark a discussion about wants and needs."

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From Canadian Children's Book News: Winter 2009, Vol. 32, No. 1
"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."

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From National Writing for Children Center: March 6, 2009
Reviewed by Carma Dutra

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.

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From Montreal Gazette: December 5, 2008
Reviewed by Bernie Goedhart

Ever wonder why ants don't wear shoes? No, me neither. But now that the question is out there, wouldn't you like to know the answer?

Musharraf Ali Farooqi, a native of Pakistan who now lives in Toronto, spells it out in this book, and it's surprisingly simple: Ants used to wear shoes, but the cobbler ant who kept them in footwear got tired and walked off the job.

With eight legs each and a basic wardrobe of 30 shoes per ant (different pairs for work, play, outside and inside, plus party shoes), the poor cobbler was worn ragged keeping up with the demands of his job.

Ants, as most of us know, are social insects with a strong work ethic. What most of us might NOT know is that they also like to play hard – especially on the dance floor. They have a sense of style (Eugene Yelchin's lively, detailed illustrations suggest ants are particularly fond of the Flapper era and the fancy dress styles of the 1920s) and don't wish "to be seen wearing the same pair of shoes twice."

The poor cobbler, therefore, is overworked and so frazzled that he decides to take a vacation – an extended vacation. In fact, he gathers up the sizable sum of money he has earned producing and repairing countless shoes, bundles up all that loot, and leaves – without telling anyone.

The rest of the ants, too late, learn how they've taken him for granted. Their shoes begin to wear out and the ants start dragging their feet, especially on the dance floor. Which is when a small red ant trots out in bare feet. Fashion mavens in the room are scandalized, but when they see how easily this little ant executes even the most intricate dance steps, they, too, abandon their footwear. In the end, the little red ant set a new style – "and from that day to this, all ants have walked barefoot."

So-called pourquoi stories are a staple among folk tales and children's literature. This one includes a liberal dose of nonsense which, together with the stylized images of Russian-born artist Yelchin (now living in California), gives the book wide appeal. Aimed at ages 4 to 8, it would also make a good tongue-in-cheek gift for any adult with too many shoes in his/her closet.

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From The Imperfect Parent: Feb 2009
Reviewed by Amy Brozio-Andrews

If you've ever wondered why ants don't wear shoes on all those feet they have, Musharraf Ali Farooqi's The Cobbler's Holiday or Why Ants Don't Wear Shoes offers kids quite an explanation.

Once upon a time, ants wore shoes. Lots of them. With six feet after all, and needing pairs for work, play, parties, and more, ants had piles and piles of shoes. Which was okay until they went to parties, wearing their walking shoes and changing into their party shoes. It always ended in chaos because the ants fought over whose shoes were whose; some less than honest ants even tried to leave their old, worn out shoes behind and make off with new pairs. The only cobbler in town was so busy keeping up with all of the orders for shoes, he worked day and night, with never a day off. Until one day he bit his finger by accident, instead of the leather he was preparing for shoes. The cobbler figured he was working too hard and decided to take the day off. His day of relaxation was so great, he decided to quit being a cobbler and spend the rest of his days traveling, pitching the entire community of ants into even more intense chaos as they realized he wasn't coming back. Who would fix their shoes and keep making new pairs? It wasn't until the arrival of a shoeless red ant that everything changed, showing the ants what was possible without their shoes.

Eugene Yelchin's colorful artwork is so detail-oriented: an ant sits on a pile of colorful shoes, the cobbler is pictured among all the unfinished shoes in his workshop, stylishly dressed ants perform a highly intricate dance at a party -- each scene is brought to life with expressive faces and body language. Especially for young readers, the artwork really drives home the story -- one page is devoted to picturing all fifteen pairs of shoes owned by one ant, for example. With stark white backgrounds, the colorful ants and their shoes are the primary focus and make for a tightly woven blend of story and art throughout the book.

Musharraf Ali Farooqi's picture book reads like a fable. The story is simple and vivid, demonstrating the ants' endless appetite for shoes through parties and lots of errands to run. The seemingly simple act of the cobbler taking off on a permanent vacation prompts all kinds of drama for the ants, both materially (everyone's shoes keep falling apart from the heavy use and there is no one to fix them) and socially (the stylish ants decide it's okay to wear shoes without heels, and then long skirts to cover their shabby shoes, setting the tone for the others). The Cobbler's Holiday is a great family read, an enjoyable tale that is entertaining as well as providing ample opportunity for conversation about how and why the ants behave as they do.

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From Kahani magazine (www.kahani.com): Spring 2009
Reviewed by Pooja Makhijani

"Have you ever wondered why ants don’t wear shoes? Toronto-based writer Musharraf Ali Farooqi’s, The Cobbler’s Holiday, answers this very question.

You see, long ago, the closets in ants’ houses were once full of shoes. As each had six feet, an ant needed three pairs of shoes for each occasion: three pairs for work, three pairs for outdoors, three pairs for play, three pairs for parties, and three pairs of slippers. In short,thirty shoes for one ant alone!

Half of an ant’s day was spent running errands; the other half was taken up by his or her favorite dance—the Tick-Toe-Hip-Clog-Tock-Hop—which required thirty-six thousand steps in all. All this activity caused much wear and tear on an ant’s shoes.

No worries, though. The one ant cobbler mended shoes and designed new ones and cut leather and stitched. He worked all hours and his shop never closed. All this hard work made him very rich. One day, however, he decided to take a break and spend the rest of his life traveling. He packed all his money in a bag and went far, far away.

Now, what were the stylish ants to do? They find out soon—when they see a bold fashionista dance the Tick-Toe-Hip-Clog-Tock-Hop to a different tune.

Farooqi is an author, novelist, and translator. He is most famous for his translation of theAdventures of Amir Hamza, which tells of the adventures of Amir Hamza, the uncle of the Prophet Mohammed. In The Cobbler’s Holiday (Roaring Brook Press, 2008), his first book for children, he spins a delightful, witty tale.

Russian-born Eugene Yelchin’s glamorous illustrations enchant. His foppish ants wear top hats, fur-trimmed coats, monocles and, of course, shoes. From moccasins and clogs to sandals and slip-ons, readers will love Yelchin’s elaborate, colorful footwear.

The Cobbler’s Holiday is a chic fable about trying something new. This smart, lush book can spark a conversation about sustaining our needs and keeping our wants at bay."

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