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The Picture Book Buzz

Jimmy's Shoes: The Story of Jimmy Choo, Shoemaker to a Princess - Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF

While tackling a topic I haven''t seen done before, this fascinating nonfiction offers a great peek into the life, career, persistence, and genius of Jimmy Choo. As well as the illustrative genius of Derel Desierto, whose stunning, beautifully textured digital collage illustrations make this book so lively and fun.

Book cover  - boy holding a fancy shoe with flowers and shoe-making tools all around him.

Jimmy's Shoes: The Story of Jimmy Choo, Shoemaker to a Princess

Author: Patricia Tanumihardja

Illustrator: Derek Desierto

Publisher: Abrams Books for Young Readers

Ages: 4-8


Following your dreams, immigrant, shoe making, and persistence.


A picture book biography of the shoemaker Jimmy Choo, tracing his life from his father’s workshop in Penang to the runways of London to the halls of Kensington Palace

On the island of Penang, Jimmy Choo is born into a family of shoemakers. At his father’s side, he learns to make all kinds of shoes—loafers, stilettos, slippers, and more.

After learning all he can at home, Jimmy immigrates to London, where he can study shoemaking by day and English by night. Nothing comes easy for newcomer Jimmy, but he works hard until he can launch his own business. At his Lucky Shoes, Jimmy specializes in shoes made just for the customer. Before long, Jimmy starts to make waves in the London fashion scene. One day, he gets a call from a very special customer—Diana, Princess of Wales, wants him to design shoes just for her. And the rest is history!

Opening Lines:

On the tropical island of Penang, where

waves crashed onto white sandy beaches,

pretty orchids dotted verdant hills,

and hawkers crowded busy streets,

Jimmy was born into a family of shoemakers.

What I LOVED about this book:

Isn't this a gorgeous opening for a biography? Not only does Derek Desierto's illustrations set the stage for the bright colors, textures, flowers, and patterns which influenced Jimmy throughout his life. But Patricia Tanumihardja's lilting, lyrical text enticingly swoops us into Jimmy's life and we can't help but want to know more.

Opening spread of Pengang and a look int he window at Jimmy's parents holding him as a baby.

Text © Patricia Tanumihardja, 2023. Image © Derek Desierto, 2023.

Growing up watching his father make all manner of shoes, Jimmy took his first step into this profession when, at the age of eleven, he made his mother a pair of leather slippers. Working as an apprentice for the next few years, Jimmy learned the practicalities of shoemaking. I've never seen a shoe constructed, so I was totally enthralled by this spread's description and illustration of the process and the highlighting yellow swirl around the end result.

Internal Spread - Jimmy and his father working on shoes and the 10 steps for making a shoe.

Text © Patricia Tanumihardja, 2023. Image © Derek Desierto, 2023.

When his island's economy tanked, Jimmy moved to London. Battling loneliness, "the language, new customs, and unfamiliar food," Jimmy took on odd jobs. Excitedly enrolling in Cordwainers Technical College, Jimmy found himself struggling to catch up to his peers' art school training and perfect his designs. But Jimmy was determined. The images of him leaving home, his initial time in London, and then working day and night to catch up with the other students are powerful - full of wonderful textures and cleverly situated spot illustrations, including fascinating sketches and drawings of some of Jimmy's shoe designs.

I agree with Patricia, that the illustration of Jimmy working in his studio (after graduating with distinction), is amazing! Gorgeous colors, flowers, and birds join yellow swooshes to swirl around and out of Jimmy's drawings in a beautiful representation of how Jimmy's "designs were inspired by the vibrant flowers, brilliant birds, and graceful architecture of his homeland." (check out Patricia's interview for the image). It is stunning.

Slowly, Jimmy Choo developed a reputation and the career of an haute couture creator of one-of-a-kind shoes. It is so fun to see some of his unique designs spotlighted throughout the images. Always on the cusp, Jimmy worked super hard, until - a princess asked him to make her shoes.

Internal spread - on the left, Jimmy holding up new clothes. On the right, Jimmy kneeling anshowing Princess  Diana a pink shoe.

Text © Patricia Tanumihardja, 2023. Image © Derek Desierto, 2023.

Princess Dianna's stunning dress, the shoes, and the formality of the scene are humorously juxtaposed with the new boxers and socks on a hanger and Jimmy's mom's advice to "Be as presentable as possible" in the opposite image! Wait until you see the rest of the book.... A fascinating author's note expands on Jimmy's early life, the creation of his business, and his activities which have earned him the Order of the British Empire and a titles of Dato and Datuk in Malaysia

This is a fun biography about a man who has made a difference to fashion, yes, but also a difference in the lives of many young designers. An honest look at some of the challenges of being an immigrant, it's also a reminder to hold onto ones' heritage and to fight for your dreams. With a light touch of humor, it's a book that shoe-lovers and nonfiction fans can both enjoy.


Paper shoos made from a map.

- try making a pair of paper shoes (no sewing necessary!)

- what are your favorite type of shoes? Why?

- write a description, or draw an image, of a shoe you would design.

- what does it mean - "to walk in another's shoes"? How would this apply to someone new to your school, neighborhood, or club?

If you missed the interview with Patricia Tanumihardja on Monday, find it (here).

This post is part of a series by authors and KidLit bloggers called Perfect Picture Book Fridays. For more picture book suggestions and resources see Susanna Leonard Hill's Perfect Picture Books.


Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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