Author: Mary Quattlebaum
Illustrators: Tim Ladwig
Publisher: Eerdmans Books for Young Readers
Audience: Ages 5 and up (The story may be too long for preschool-aged children, but older readers could retell it in their own words and have children look at the beautiful pictures).
Summary: It is 1932, during the Great Depression, and on three successive days, Larry, a homeless shoeshine man (Shine Man), gives his cap, his sock-gloves, and a spool-and-yarn angel (a “spoolie”) to a poor boy. He is freezing and hungry and no one is stopping for a shoeshine. With nothing left to give he shines the poor boy’s shoes-that are falling apart. Suddenly, a light begins to shine from within the boy and the Shine Man discovers he is “the One, the Heavenly Child.” Suddenly, Larry and the glowing boy are shining together, flying over the town, hand-in-hand.
Literary elements at work in the story: This beautiful story is told through the voice of a child who heard the tale from his own father. It is set in the heart of the Great Depression in 1932, in a cold and dreary town, and reveals the kindness of a man who is willing to give his only positions to help a child in need. While young children may view the end of the story as a simple adventure, older children may pick up on the deeper meaning and understand that Larry has died. Adult readers should be prepared should this question arise. The spectacular watercolor illustrations do a beautiful job of telling the story all on their own and it would be wonderful to show children the pictures and have them create the story themselves.
Perspective on gender/race/culture/economic/ability: It is 1932 and people are struggling. Very few can find work and many are homeless. Yet we see in the illustrations people hustling and bustling by the Shine Man as they buy food and gifts for Christmas. But no one stops. Instead, the Shine Man takes it upon himself to give his remaining possessions to a young boy who he believes needs them more. He has no way of knowing who this boy is. He simply sees someone in need and feels that he must help.
Scripture: Birth narratives found in Matthew 1:18-2:12 and Luke 1:26-1:38 and 2:1-21, James 4:10, Deuteronomy 16:27, Hebrews 13:2
Theology: This is a humbling story. In Deuteronomy, we read, “Every man shall give as he is able,” but the only man who actually follows those words in this story is the man who is least able. His heart simply cannot allow the injustice he sees before him in this child and he is compelled to help. Little does he know whom he is really helping. But the truth is, it would not have mattered if he had. His kindness and hospitality is not based on class or merit or importance- it is simply based on a need he sees before him.
Faith Talk Questions:
- Let’s look at some of the pictures in this book again. What were things like in 1932? What are some of the things you notice?
- Describe the Shine Man. What kind of life does he have? Does he have a lot of money and things?
- Why don’t people stop for a shoeshine?
- Why does the Shine Man give the boy the only possessions he has? What happens to the man as he gives away his warm clothes?
- Who is the boy? Why didn’t he tell the Shine Man who he was right away? Do you think it would have made a difference?
- What can you do this Christmas and all year-round to help those in need?
Review prepared by Erin Mills, MACE, Entering cohort Fall 2007