Abukacha’s Shoes by Tamar Tessler
Meet Abukacha, who lives “in a village far, far away” with his family. “Everyone knew Abukacha because he had the biggest shoes in the whole wide world.” After so many years of working and traveling, they’re no longer made for walking, so Abukacha visits his shoemaker neighbor for the perfect new pair.
As for those battered old lace-ups, Abukacha tosses them in the garbage on his way home. Ironically, comically, his friends and neighbors aren’t ready to let those distinctive shoes go: the garbage man saves them, certain that a mistake was made; the fisherman rescues them from the sea; a mayor’s daughter pulls them up from a derelict well and sends them home with the farmer. Somehow, Abukacha needs to devise a way to set his shoes free …”
Tel Aviv-based author Tamar Tessler’s background as a graphic designer is evident in her distinctive collages that whimsically combine various textures and papers overlaid with simple, colorful cut-outs, together with photographs of people, animals, landscapes all mixed and not-always-so-matched (on purpose). She explains the inspiration for her debut title in her ending “Author’s Note”: “When I was a little girl, my aunt Haya would tell me the story of Abukacha and his shoes – a folktale she herself heard as a child from her aunt Fella.”
Those extended family bonds deepen as Tessler further reveals what’s beneath the humor is a bittersweet homage she’s created by “mixing the old with the new and fiction with documentary.” Woven into her childhood memories is her family’s history – literally and visually: “Containing photos of my grandmother’s Polish family, this book commemorates her mother, father, brothers, and sisters who perished in the Holocaust,” Tessler writes.
Replace ‘Holocaust’ with any number of seemingly timeless tragedies: from natural disasters like earthquakes and floods, to international conflicts like war and terrorism, to domestic conflagrations like riots and murders. The need to remember is always urgent: “My hope is that this book will bring these people back to life, if only for a second, and remind us all that every name has a face and a life of its own.” Indeed, indeed.
If you needed further testimony about the magical power of stories, you’ve undoubtedly found it right here.