Noah Z. Jones

Those Shoes

Jeremy wants a pair of black high-tops, but his friend needs them more

By Maribeth Boelts

Learning Objective: Students will understand how a character changes as they read this story about a young boy who helps a friend by giving him what he himself wants the most.

Lexiles: 500L-600L
Guided Reading Level: M
DRA Level: 24
Think and Read: How a Character Changes

As you read, think about how Jeremy changes from the beginning of the story to the end.

I have dreams about those shoes. Black high-tops. Two white stripes.

“Grandma, I want them.”

“There’s no room for ‘want’ around here—just ‘need,’” Grandma says. “And what you need are new boots.”

Brandon T. comes to school in those shoes. He says he’s the fastest runner now, not me. I was always the fastest before those shoes came along.

Nate comes to school in those shoes. Antonio and I count how many times Nate goes to the bathroom—seven times in one day, just so he can walk up and down the hall real slow.

Next, Allen and Terrence each get a pair.

Then one day, in the middle of kickball, one of my shoes comes apart.

“Looks like you could use a new pair, Jeremy,” Mr. Alfrey, the guidance counselor, says. He brings out a box of stuff he has for kids who need things. He helps me find the only shoes that are my size—Velcro—like the ones my little cousin Marshall wears. They have an animal on them from a cartoon I don’t think any kid ever watched.

When I come back to the classroom, Allen looks at my Mr. Alfrey shoes and laughs, and so does everyone else. The only kid not laughing is Antonio.

Noah Z. Jones

Shopping for Shoes

At home, Grandma says, “How kind of Mr. Alfrey.” I nod and turn my back. I’m not going to cry about any dumb shoes.

But when I’m writing my spelling words later, my grip is so tight on my pencil I think it might bust.

On Saturday Grandma says, “Let’s check out those shoes. I got a little bit of money set aside. Might be enough—you never know.”

At the shoe store, Grandma turns those shoes over to check the price. When she sees it, she sits down heavy.

“Maybe they wrote it down wrong,”
I say.

Grandma shakes her head.

Then I remember the thrift shops.

“What if there’s a rich kid who outgrew his or got two pairs for Christmas and gave one of them away?”

We ride the bus to the first thrift shop. They have every kind of shoes except the ones I want.

We ride the bus to the second thrift shop. Not a pair of those shoes in sight.

Around the corner is the third thrift shop . . . In the window, I see black shoes with two white stripes. High-tops. Perfect shape. $2.50. THOSE SHOES.

Noah Z. Jones

Too Tight

My heart is pounding as I take off my shoes and pull up my baggy socks.

“What size are they?” Grandma asks.

I shove my foot into the first shoe, curling my toes to get my heel in. “I don’t know, but I think they fit.”

Grandma kneels on the floor and feels for my toes at the end of the shoe.

“Oh, Jeremy . . . ” she says. “I can’t buy you shoes that don’t fit.”

I pull the other shoe on and try to walk around.

“They’re okay,” I say, holding my breath and praying that my toes will fall off right then and there.

But my toes don’t fall off.

I buy the shoes anyway with my own money, and I squeeze them on and limp to the bus stop.

Noah Z. Jones

Not Going to Do It? 

A few days later, Grandma brings home a new pair of snow boots and doesn’t say a word about my too-big feet shuffling around in my too-small shoes.

“Sometimes shoes stretch,” I say. Grandma gives me a hug.

Those shoes don’t stretch. I have to wear my Mr. Alfreys to school instead.

One day during math, I glance at Antonio’s shoes. One of them is taped up, and his feet look smaller than mine.

After school, I head to the park to think.

Antonio is there—the only kid who didn’t laugh at my Mr. Alfrey shoes.

We shoot baskets—a loose piece of tape on Antonio’s shoe smacks the concrete every time he jumps.

I think, I’m not going to do it.

We leap off the swings.   

I’m not going to do it.

We race across the playground—

“I’m not going to do it!” I say.

“Do what?” Antonio says.

Grandma calls me in for supper and invites Antonio over too.

After supper, he sees my shoes.

“How come you don’t wear them?” Antonio asks.

I shrug. My hands are sweaty—I can feel him wishing those shoes were his.

Noah Z. Jones

The Gift

That night, I am awake for a long time thinking about Antonio.

When morning comes, I try on my shoes one last time.

Before I can change my mind, the shoes are in my coat.

Snow is beginning to fall as I run across the street to Antonio’s apartment. I put the shoes in front of his door, push the doorbell—and run.

At school, Antonio is smiling in his brand-new shoes. I feel happy when I look at his face and mad when I look at my Mr. Alfrey shoes.

When it’s time for recess, something happens. Everywhere, there is snow.

“Change into your boots,” the teacher announces.

Change into your boots. I remember what I have in my backpack. New boots that no kid has ever worn before.

Standing in line to go to recess, Antonio leans forward and says, “Thanks.”

I smile and give him a nudge . . .

“Let’s race!” 

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Can't Miss Teaching Extras
Check It Out

Share the inspiration for Those Shoes in this Q&A with author Maribeth Boelts (scroll down about ⅔ of the way)

Fun Fact

Author Maribeth Boelts is a beekeeper, even though she says she has “never gotten used to the stings.” Her new book, Kaia and the Bees, comes out in March 2020.

Teach This

Ask your students about the difference between wanting something and needing something. What is something they thought they needed but really just desired?

More About the Article

Content-Area Connections

Social-emotional learning: Self-awareness (identifying emotions); social awareness (empathy); responsible decision-making (ethical responsibility); relationship skills (relationship building)

Key Skills

How a character changes, point of view, making inferences, key details, plot, text features, cause and effect, character’s motivation, compare and contrast

Step-by-Step Lesson Plan


Preview Text Features (10 minutes)

  • Ask students to look at pages 14 and 15. Direct their attention to the title, introductory words, and illustration. Have them use clues in the title and introductory words to identify Jeremy in the illustration. How are his shoes different from the shoes worn by the other kids in the picture? How does Jeremy probably feel as he looks at the shoes worn by the boy standing next to him?
  • Have students look at the illustrations and subheads on pages 16-19. Read aloud each subhead with the class. What are the students in Jeremy’s class doing in the picture on page 16? Why might they be laughing at him?

Introduce Vocabulary (15 minutes)

  • We have highlighted in bold six terms that may be unfamiliar to students and defined them on the page. Discuss the meaning of the terms, focusing on how they are used in the story.
  • Preview these terms by projecting or distributing our Vocabulary Skill Builder and completing it as a class. You may also play our Vocabulary Slideshow, where images and audio help students with comprehension and fluency.
  • Highlighted terms: Velcro, thrift shops, limp, shuffling, glance, nudge

Set a Purpose for Reading (5 minutes)

  • Call on volunteers to read aloud the Think and Read and Think and Write boxes on pages 14 and 19. These features and the fiction package support the story’s featured skill, how a character changes.
  • As they read, remind students to think about the details that describe how Jeremy’s feelings about “those shoes” change from the beginning to the end of the story.


Reading and Unpacking the Text

  • First read: Read the story as a class. As they read, point to the sentences “I’m not going to do it” in boldface on page 18. Explain that these sentences are in bold type because Jeremy is first thinking and then saying the words more forcefully. Read aloud the sentences with appropriate emotion and have students repeat them.
  • Use the Pause and Think question at the end of each section to check comprehension.
  • Second read: Distribute the Close-Reading and Critical-Thinking Questions to the class. Preview them together. Ask students to read the story again and answer the questions as a class or in small groups.

Close-Reading Questions (30 minutes) 

  • Read the first section. Who is telling this story? How do you know? (point of view) Jeremy is telling the story. He uses the pronoun “I.”
  • What do those shoes look like? (key details) They are black high-tops with two white stripes.
  • Read “Shopping for Shoes.” Why does Grandma “sit down heavy” when she checks the price of the high-tops Jeremy wants? (making inferences) She’s surprised by how much the shoes cost.
  • What happens when Jeremy and his grandmother see the window of the third thrift shop? (plot) He sees the black high-tops for an affordable price.
  • How does the picture on page 17 help you understand how Jeremy feels inside the thrift shop? (text features) The picture shows he can’t believe he found the shoes he’s dreamed of owning.
  • Read “Too Tight.” Why does Jeremy limp to the bus stop? (cause and effect) The new high-tops he bought are too small for him.
  • Why did he buy them anyway? (character’s motivation) He wants the shoes so much, he’s willing to wear the wrong size.
  • Read the next section. Why does Jeremy say, “I’m not going to do it?” (making inferences) He knows that Antonio could use the high-tops, but he’s not ready to give his shoes away to his friend.
  • Read “The Gift.” How do Antonio and Jeremy feel about the shoes they are wearing? (compare and contrast) Antonio is happy with the shoes that Jeremy gave him. Jeremy feels mad when he looks at his own feet and sees the shoes that Mr. Alfrey gave him.
  • How have Jeremy’s feelings about his shoes changed in this part of the story? (how a character changes) The shoes aren’t as important to him anymore. He would rather see his friend happy.

Critical-Thinking Question (10 minutes)

  • At the beginning of the story Jeremy says, “I have dreams about the shoes.” At the end he says, “That night, I am awake for a long time thinking about Antonio.” How does Jeremy change by the end of the story? (how a character changes) At the beginning of the story, Jeremy only thinks about owning a pair of black high-tops. Then he realizes Antonio needs a new pair of shoes. Instead of thinking about what he wants, Jeremy helps his friend get the shoes that he needs.


How a Character Changes

  • Distribute our How a Character Changes Skill Builder. Ask students to work in small groups to complete it.
  • Discuss the writing assignment in the Think and Write box. Students should include details from the story that explain how and why Jeremy’s feelings change throughout the story.

Differentiate and Customize
For ELL Students

Have students listen to the audio version of the story as they follow along. Ask them to look for details about how Jeremy feels before he buys the shoes, after he buys the shoes, and when he gives them away. Write their answers on the board. Help students use the details to write their own sentences.

For Advanced Readers

Ask students to reread the story and look for ways that Jeremy expresses his feelings about what happened to him. Then have them write a letter from either Jeremy or Antonio to a friend about an important story event. Students can read aloud their letters in small groups.

For Reading Partners

Ask students to read the story silently. Have them underline details that describe Jeremy’s feelings in each section. Would students have given away their shoes to Antonio? Why or why not? What important lesson does Jeremy learn by the end of the story?

For Struggling Readers

Read the story aloud while students follow along. Ask them to underline details that describe what Jeremy does in the beginning, middle, and end of the story. How does Jeremy feel about his black high-tops at the beginning of the story? How does he feel at the end of the story?