Review + Teachers’ Notes: ‘Grandma’s Treasured Shoes’

Home » Review + Teachers’ Notes: ‘Grandma’s Treasured Shoes’

At talks to parents and educators, I always say that books allow young people to walk in the shoes of others. Never was this saying more relevant than with the latest book by Coral Vass; a story of a grandma and her treasured shoes, which are with her as she flees her home country of Vietnam as a small child and then remain with her always. ‘Grandma’s Treasured Shoes’ is a must-have refugee story for early childhood and primary school classrooms and deserves a place on every home bookshelf.

Title: ‘Grandma’s Treasured Shoes’
Author: Coral Vass
Illustrator: Christina Huynh
Publisher: National Library of Australia (NLA Publishing)
Age Range: early childhood, lower primary, middle primary.
Themes: refugees, migrants, treasured objects, history, family history, NLA collection.

Click on title links or cover image to purchase.

Grandma has oodles and oodles of shoes. Walking shoes, dancing shoes, fancy and plain, Grandma
has a shoe for every occasion. So why are these scratched and dusty old ones so special?

Story of refugees and migrants are vitally important in ensuring young people build an awareness of the challenges faced by individuals and families who live the reality. Every child can and should develop their understanding of the issues facing refugees and displaced children through books such as ‘Grandma’s Treasured Shoes’. It is so wonderful that Coral Vass has written this book for an early childhood – lower primary audience as it is never too young to build empathy, understanding and kindness.  As with all the fabulous NLA titles, this one has a short non fiction section at the conclusion of the story which draws on material housed in the National Library of Australia, such a wonderful way to allow wide access to the collection.

Follow it Up in the Home, Classroom or Library

Teachers’ Notes prepared by teacher Melissa Kroeger for Children’s Books Daily in context with the Australian Curriculum.

Title: ‘Grandma’s Treasured Shoes’
Author:  Coral Vass
Illustrator: Christina Huynh

‘They’re old shoes,
Frail shoes,
Dusty and pale shoes,
Hidden with secrets,
Remarkable shoes’


  • Humanities and Social Sciences
  • English


  • Literacy
  • Critical-Creative
  • Numeracy
  • Reading
  • Personal-Social
  • Ethical-Understanding



  1. Look at the front cover, read the title and discuss
  • What do you think the book is about?
  • Where do you think the book takes place?
  • Who is wearing the shoes in the picture?
  • What does ‘treasured’ mean?
  • Why would shoes be treasured?
  • Do you have a pair of shoes that you love?
  1. Read the blurb on the back and discuss:
  • Why do you think these shoes could be so special?
  • Why would something old be extraordinary?

Read the book

  • Look on page 3 and discuss what all the shoes would be used for? Different types of weather/ styles/ occasions?
  • Read page 4 and 5 and ask which shoe links to each part of the text and why.
  • Look at the illustration on page 7 and discuss where the land far away could be.
  • Read page 9 and ask how could shoes be hidden with secrets and tales? Does it mean something else?
  • Look at the illustrations on page 10 and 11 and ask – what country do you think this is in? What parts of the illustration tell you that?
  • Read page 12 and ask – what does flee mean? Why would they have to run away? Look at the expressions on their faces – how are they feeling?
  • Read page 14 and ask – how could shoes be fearful, racing chasing and escaping? Or does it mean something else? What could it be? Look at the illustrations on page 14 and 15 – what are the people running to? Would it really be that they are running towards big shoes?
  • Read page 16 and discuss the adjectives – trembling, teary, roaming, weary, muddy, drifting, sandy, shifting. What do these words really mean? Look at the illustrations on pages 16 and 17 – what do you notice – empty cans, expressions on the characters’ faces, hats all on their own. What do you think all these things mean?
  • Read page 19. It says that she has ‘salty but free’ shoes – what does that mean? Look at the illustrations – what do you think the blue ocean, rising sun and green mountains represent?
  • Read page 20. Discuss the time period. Do you think it is a long time? Why did it take so long? Compare it to flying in an aeroplane. Why would the girl be given new shoes?
  • On page 21 it describes the shoes as ‘strange’ shoes. Why is that? Why do you think that she has been given school shoes?
  • On pages 23, 24, 25 and 26 link the shoes to the text. Do you have shoes like these?
  • On page 31 the shoes are shown in a box. Why do you think that would be?
  • Read page 32. Why would the shoes be OUR most loved shoes? How have those shoes impacted on other generations?
  • Read the non-fiction text at the back of the book about refugees
  • Read the text at the very back of the book about the author, Coral Vass and the illustrator Christina Huynh.


Content Description: ACHASSI018 Pose questions about past and present objects, people, places and events


  • posing questions with the stems ‘where’, ‘what’, ‘how’ and ‘why’ about families, celebrations, places and the weather
  • asking questions before, during and after listening to stories about people and places and about their past and present
  • preparing questions for parents and members of older generations about how they lived in the past, where they lived and the places they value
  • collecting and displaying everyday objects (for example, toys, telephone, radio, cooking utensils, clothes) and other sources (for example, photos, found objects, maps, observation sketches) to stimulate ‘Where’, ‘What’, ‘When’, ‘How’ and ‘Why?’ questions.


  1. Class Quiz. After reading the book using the above questioning in the ‘Read the book’ section, ask students to write their own question(s) about the book to ask the class using ‘where’, ‘what’, ‘how’ and ‘why’ questioning ie: What country did grandma used to live in? How did grandma get to another country?
  2. Family Survey. As a class come up with a list of questions that students can ask their parents or older generations about how they lived in the past, where they live and places they value. For example: What type of clothing did you used to wear as a child that is different to clothing today? How did you used to get to school? Where did you live growing up? What place is special to you and why? Collate your answers. Discuss with your class. Produce a class graph to show the differences between what an older generation did compared to what we do now.
  3. Host a Grandparent Morning Tea. Ask grandparents/ older generations to bring in an object or a photo of something from their childhood to present to the class. Have children pose ‘Where’, ‘What’, ‘When’, ‘How’ and ‘Why?’ questions about them. Read the book ‘Grandma’s Treasured Shoes’ to all and have the class discuss with them how this book stimulated their search for objects from past generations.



Content Description: ACHASSI020 Sort and record information and data, including location, in tables and on plans and labelled maps


  • creating and sharing concept maps to show personal understanding of their world (for example, a web of family relationships and connections, or a mental map of their place and its important features or spaces)
  • making artefact and photo displays to show the features of a place (for example, collections of natural and constructed things from the environment) or to show the passing of time (for example, collections of things used when growing older, toys used by different generations) and labelling the display with simple captions
  • recording data about the location of places and their features on maps and/or plans (for example, labelling the location of their home and daily route to school on a map of the local area, drawing a plan of their classroom and labelling its activity spaces)
  • developing a pictorial table to categorise information (for example, matching clothes with seasons, activities with the weather, features and places, places with the work done) 


  1. Create a Family Tree. Have children bring in photos of their family – grandmothers, grandfathers, mother, father, siblings etc. Make labels for the family members and have students draw a large tree on an A3. Students start at the top placing their eldest family members and label them. On the branch below place photos of the next in age family members and label. Continue until all photos are used. Have students talk to the class about their family tree. Display in the classroom.
  2. Toys Over Time. Using catalogues, have students cut out pictures of toys. With the class talk about the toys – what they’re made of, do they need batteries or electricity to work etc. Find and print some pictures of toys from past generations online, have students cut them out. Discuss with the class what they are made of and what they needed to work. Make a comparison chart and display.
  3. Match the Shoes. Print pictures of different shoes /find shoe pictures in catalogues, just like in the book – shoes for the park, dancing, beach, splash in the rain, fancy shoes etc. Have students select a pair of shoes and draw the appropriate clothing to go with them. You may design a template of a person and the students use that to draw on. To extend further here is a fun website which students can play online a match the pairs game (word and item of clothing) and it also contains worksheets on this topic too.


English – YEAR 4

Content Description: ACELA1496 Explore the effect of choices when framing an image, placement of elements in the image, and salience on composition of still and moving images in a range of types of texts


  • examining visual and multimodal texts, building a vocabulary to describe visual elements and techniques such as framing, composition and visual point of view and beginning to understand how these choices impact on viewer response 


  1. Look at the Illustrations. Look at the front cover of the book – what does it show? Think of the positioning of the each of the elements. What types of colours, lines and mediums has the illustrator used? Why has the illustrator done this? What are they trying to make us feel? Would it look different if jagged lines and dark, gloomy colours were used? Make a list of words to describe visual elements. Look at other pages in the book and talk about these elements.
  2. Look at Other Books. Find other picture books and discuss these different elements and how they compare. A good book for comparison is ‘ANZAC Biscuits’ Phil Cummings and Owen Swan. Compare the different elements of the art work of Monet and Vincent Van Gogh. What else can you compare?


English – YEAR 4

Content Description: ACELT1603 Discuss literary experiences with others, sharing responses and expressing a point of view


  • sharing and discussing students’ own and others’ understanding of the effects of particular literary techniques on their appreciation of texts
  • drawing comparisons between multiple texts and students’ own experiences. Commenting orally, in written form and in digital reviews on aspects such as: ‘Do I recognise this in my own world?’; ‘How is this text similar to or different from other texts I’ve read?’; ‘How common is it to human experience in the real world?’; ‘What new ideas does it bring?’; ’How do they fit with what I believe?’


  1. How Did this Book Make you Feel? Discuss this book in a class or small group. Do you know of any other books which discuss refugees? Do you know of any refugees yourself? What are their stories? Or are you a refugee? What is your story? Is it similar to this book? How does grandma’s experience in this book compare to your own experience?
  1. Write a Refugee Story. Write a story about someone fleeing their country. Cover their reasons for leaving their homeland, their voyage and their new life that they discover. Don’t forget to include feelings and emotions.




Megan Daley Bio

Looking for more great book reviews and recommendations? I’m Megan Daley and you can find out more about me here.

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