The Wrong Shoes

The Wrong Shoes

By Author / Illustrator

Tom Percival


Representation & Inclusion

Age range(s)



Simon & Schuster








A beautiful and urgent exploration of the experience of child poverty from Tom Percival, creator of the bestselling Big Bright Feelings series, for fans of Boy at the Back of the Class. 

There's a bunch of kids in there and suddenly they're all looking at me like someone who can actually do something, not just some weirdo with the wrong shoes and a rubbish coat . . .

Will has the wrong shoes - he's always known it but doesn't know how to change it. Navigating the difficulties of home and school when you feel you stick out is tough, but finding confidence with the help and empathy of friends can be all you need to see the way.

Praise for The Wrong Shoes:  'Powerful and moving with the potential to change lives' Hannah Gold.  'Full of empathy and most importantly, heart' Phil Earle.  'Reading fiction is about walking in the shoes of people whose lives are very different from ours and allowing more readers to see themselves in stories. The Wrong Shoes is the perfect example of both - the right book at the right time' Tom Palmer. 



Will has the wrong shoes, they are wrong in every way because Will lives in grinding poverty and has no money for basics, let alone new shoes. Will is at secondary school and nothing seems to be going right at the moment. He feels different from everyone else because of his home life and lack of everything. He struggles to find the right way to navigate life, both at home and at school, and feels all choices have been taken away from him. He does not know how to find the voice to change things.

The Wrong Shoes is a compelling story that highlights life for the millions of children in poverty. The shoes are a symbol of everything that is wrong in Will's life and all the things he can do nothing about. There is no happy ending; the story even starts with the words "This is no fairy tale", but it is does show the power of friendship and confronting the truth.

Tom Percival has written some lovely picture books but here he uses his drawings to convey something quite different. The pictures are dark and brooding and almost graphic novel-like. They fill the pages with vivid images and convey the mood perfectly.

The Wrong Shoes is a very powerful book, suitable for upper KS2 / ages 9+. It is not an easy read but it is very powerful and I could not put it down as I became very invested in the characters. Each copy of the hardback book will donate £1 to the National Literacy Trust to support children in poverty

336 pages / Reviewed by Jacqueline Harris, teacher

Suggested Reading Age 11+


Will and his father have fallen on hard times. After an accident at work his father lost his job and cannot find other work, resulting in a move to a grotty flat in a bad area and very little money. The book is called The Wrong Shoes because Will's trainers have a hole so his feet get wet, his clothes are wrong and he is bullied at school by Christ Tucker. He has, however, a talent for art and also has a very good friend who comes from the other side of the tracks. This does not matter, somehow, until Cameron makes a kind offer of his 'old' trainers, which goes horribly wrong. Things go rapidly downhill after this and Will finds himself on the wrong path, but finds a way to pull himself back and things become better.

This is a raw story and Will leaps out from every page, his pride - unwilling to admit even to his mother and her new man Greg, how bad things are.  The symbolism of the great owl appearing at crisis moments in his life seems apt and, when translated to paper by Will in a drawing, comes the hint of a promise, of hope; could Will win the art prize?

Will's downhill slope to stealing with Chris Tucker, himself a victim, is well handled and credible, particularly his guilt at stealing from someone who has been good to him. The fact that there are good people willing to help is made clear, but of course it is pride that stops Will asking for help until things come to a climax.

Somehow the story goes awry at the end with everything turning out better than we could have expected. I'm afraid I found the piece at the end entitled 'Dear Reader' patronising and while it is not meant in that way, if I was a child in Will's position reading this book, I would feel the message is loud and clear within the text and does not need to be spelled out for all to see - it is about pride again.

336 pages / Reviewed by Janet Fisher, school librarian

Suggested Reading Age 11+


Other titles