Four Feet, Two Sandals

When relief workers bring used clothing to the refugee camp, everyone scrambles to grab whatever they can. Ten-year-old Lina is thrilled when she finds a sandal that fits her foot perfectly, until she sees that another girl has the matching shoe. Soon Lina and Feroza meet, each wearing one coveted sandal. Together they solve the problem of having four feet and two sandals. As the girls go about their routines – washing clothes in the river, waiting in long lines for water, and watching for their names to appear on the list to go to America – the sandals remind them that friendship is what is most important.

Related: Pakistan, Primary (ages 6-9), Realistic Fiction

8 thoughts on “Four Feet, Two Sandals

  1. Cate, Marissa, & Nicole says:

    Four Feet, Two Sandals is a great book for young children to learn a little about refugee life. The book follows Lina and Feroza and the journey of their friendship. The book opens young students’ eyes to realize what children their age go through in different parts of the world. In addition, students can relate to the book, especially if the teacher discusses topics like donating clothing or doing chores.
    We feel that this book would be a good attention grabber for a lesson on refugee children or even simply for a lesson on different world cultures, because the book has a few vocabulary words to introduce students to Middle Eastern culture. Not only does the book teach children a little bit about life as a refugee, but it demonstrates to children the act of sharing and caring. The book also exposes students to basic necessities that they would take for granted. This is evident in the book because Lina and Feroza both find one shoe from a pair when donated clothing was distributed. The girls see each other at the stream and realize that they each have the other shoe. The girls decide that it would be best to take turns wearing the pair. Through this event the two girls become close and when the day arrived for Lina to leave the girls had a decision to make. In the end, the girls decided that each should take a shoe because then they would never forget each other. Through this book students can learn that how to be a true friend.
    We would be comfortable using this book in our classroom because it has many lessons in it and it presents tough issues in a way that young students can understand.

  2. Liz Frambes says:

    I really enjoyed reading this story. I think it is amazing that although these girls had almost nothing, they were still so open to sharing with one another. I think this is not only a great culturally diverse book, but also a great example of sharing and how much we take for granted. We typically all have so much and rarely share. We live in a society of “more is better”, but in this story, sharing is a major part of their society. I also think we take for granted our ability and right to go to school. The two girls in the story were unable to attend, but sat outside the school to listen to the lessons and practiced spelling their names in the dirt. The priorities for these girls are so different than the priorities of girls their age in the United States. All students can learn something valuable from this story about sharing and being appreciative for what they have.

  3. Shelby Stock says:

    When reading this story I found myself reflecting on my own life, and how much I take for granted. This book gives the reader insight of what it is like for refugees living in Afghanistan and Pakistan. As others have mentioned, having two young girls as the main characters in the story really added to the meaning of it. You get to see what life is like through the eyes of two young women who are very limited on what they are allowed to do. We learn through their conversations of their hardships and what they have been through. It’s amazing how something as simple as sandals can form a bond and friendship between two girls who have very little. It saddens me to picture Lina and Feroza writing their names in the dirt, and wishing that they were given the chance to attend school. When sharing this book with students in a classroom this would be a great opportunity for students to realize how lucky they really are. This book could open the minds of some students, and allow them to reflect on their own lives, and learn to appreciate what they have. This book also helps the reader to develop compassion for others, and shows the importance of friendships and connecting with others. When Feroza gives Lina a sandle to remember her, this just shows how much they value one another, and how they have impacted each others lives. Four Feet, Two Sandals provides a wonderful learning experience for teachers and for students.

  4. Emily Robinson says:

    I think that this is such an inspiring story to read! I think that it is amazing that two girls going through a rough life find the strength to come together and build a friendship. I thought that if I were in either position of the two girls, I would have wanted my own sandals and not wanted to share. I also find it amazing that the girls still were interested in school during such a chaotic time, and even wrote their names in the dirt for practice. At the end, when Feroza gives her sandal to Lina, knowing that she would not have any shoes after this, shows how much she values a simple thing such as friendship in a life where she has not much to look forward to. I think this book shows how much we can take for granted in our own lives.

  5. Endrizzi et al says:

    Amy Camardese
    Lina and Feroza meet at a refugee camp in Peshawar, a city on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. Their families fled from Afghanistan and eked out an existence in the refugee camp, hoping and waiting for an opportunity to go to America. Their friendship was the result of each girl finding one of the sandals from a pair that relief workers distributed.
    I admired Karen Lynn Williams and Khadra Mohammed for selecting two girls as the main characters of this tale of hopes and dreams. Akin to Parvana’s existence in The Breadwinner, we follow Lina and Feroza as they complete daily tasks expected of girls: babysitting younger siblings, carrying water, and washing clothes in the stream. The girls listen outside of the school where only boys can attend; we know they are interested learners since we see them writing their names in the dirt. We learn of their desire to have the same education as boys. This injustice might lead students to compare and contrast Lina’s and Feroza’s educational experiences with their own.
    The message of friendship permeates throughout the story and provides a universal message that common bonds can help us in situations that may seem insurmountable. In spite of barriers most children cannot imagine, the human spirit prevails and culminates in Feroza giving Lina one of the precious sandals, so she can remember her good friend. Williams’ and Mohammed’s decision to use girls as the main characters for a story set in a country that does not respect the contributions of females easily leads into classroom discussions of gender inequities.
    Diana Reed
    Like Amy, I appreciate Williams’ and Mohammed’s themes of sharing and friendship to ease a young listener into a story where human loss and extreme hardships are a way of life. We see harsher themes of losing a parent or sibling woven into the text when the two main characters begin a friendship and share experiences full of pain but also joy.
    I credit the authors for their sensitive and age appropriate introduction to refugee life for a younger reading audience. The illustrations by Doug Chayka are central, providing a visual glimpse of the challenges within refugee life: living in tent homes, wearing used clothing, walking miles to get water and being separated from loved ones. All these are difficult themes addressed visually and within the storyline of two girls forming a friendship.
    Williams’ and Mohammed’s description of how girls were excluded from education struck me as well. “The school was small with only enough room for the boys to study. The girls practiced their names in the dirt and brushed the marks away, so no one would see their mistakes.” At the onset of this next school year, teachers might examine educational inequalities across diverse settings.
    As I guide future teachers, I consider it essential to encourage themes of social injustices for curricular explorations. While some may feel younger children should not be exposed to real world pain and suffering, I believe it is important to offer exposure and experiences in an age appropriate context. Ours is an age of pedagogy. Anxious parents and eager teachers explore life struggles at younger and younger ages, reading books to the very young about hefty topics. Some children’s books such as The Roses in My Carpets (Rukhsana Khan) also capture difficult refugee experiences but I wonder if it is inappropriately harsh and frightening for some children. Pairing Khan’s text with Sami and The Time of Troubles (Parry Heide & Heide Gilliand) offers students multiple perspectives on the plight of refugees. I appreciate Williams’ and Mohammed’s portrayal of the daily difficulties of refugee living by offering subtle exposure, rather than fear of injustices.
    Four Feet, Two Sandals could prompt invitations for students to talk about what the term refugee means. Questions could be asked: How would it feel to be evacuated from your home? What would it be like to walk a great distance for water? What would you do if you had to always walk without shoes?
    Charlene Klassen Endrizzi
    I also found Lina and Feroza’s connection, even for a limited time frame, an important moment of solace amid the chaos of refugees in flight. My family moved multiple times during my elementary years so I could easily relate to the need to find just one friend in my next neighborhood. I also see the girls’ babysitting chore of tending to younger siblings as an accurate portrayal of the burden often placed on children when parents face a crisis. I witnessed many of my female and male fourth grade refugee students in this exact circumstance.
    Refugee narratives have always captured my attention, due in part to my maternal and paternal grandparents’ flight out of southern Russia in the 1920’s, amid turmoil resulting from the Russian Revolution. Our nation is comprised primarily of immigrants; hence I wonder how teachers could invite family members to join an adult-child book conversation evolving from Four Feet, Two Sandals, asking them to share stories of ancestral journeys to a new homeland.
    While teaching Hmong, Lao and Cambodian children in California, I struggled to know how to respond to their personal narratives portraying tumultuous journeys from Laos or Cambodia to Thailand and finally to America. I needed texts like Williams’ that might have helped my students realize there were other children as well struggling to survive the dangers of war. I still do not understand my fourth grade students’ coping skills, seen briefly in exchanges between Lina and Feroza, associated with the loss of family members or the stark uncertainty of fleeing to freedom.
    As I explore Four Feet, Two Sandals with preservice teachers, I intentionally focus on sharing multiple narratives of the refugee experience through picture books like Dia’s Story Cloth (focused on the Hmong’s plight), The Lotus Seed (outlining the Vietnamese relocation struggle), and Gleam and Glow (examining the Bosnian civil war). On so many levels, I appreciate Williams’ and Mohammed’s depiction of refugee conflicts but I found their text almost too clean. I reframe Diana’s question in this way: What honest images can children’s authors offer to help children grapple with warfare? The authors’ description of feet as “cracked and swollen” from walking endless miles during flight was seemingly overlooked by the illustrator. I want to eavesdrop on lively conversations between Williams and Mohammed with Chayka and their editors, over how much to reveal to young readers. Studying age-appropriate photos of refugee camps could help students debate the authors and illustrator decision to favorably render the filth and unsanitary conditions of refugee life.
    Unlike Lina and Feroza, hand-me-downs were the bane of my existence as the youngest of three girls. I always feared my school friends would recognize my clothes as siblings’ leftovers. Yet for Lina and Feroza, hand-me-down shoes offered a glimmer of hope in heartrending times.
    How could teachers nudge non-refugee children to consider the sustaining hope within refugees? One avenue might be initiating a service learning project such as food or clothing collections for nearby social service agencies. The Pittsburgh Refugee Center, where Karen Lynn and Khadra first met before becoming co-authors, offers links to resources like Fair Trade stores. Think Fair Trade First is the story of an aunt taking two children on a shopping excursion to a fair trade store, inviting readers to consider this method for supporting artisans, often women in developing or war-torn countries, seeking economic opportunity through the sale of their handcrafted products.
    Four Feet, Two Sandals leads me to speculate, What happens next to Lina and Feroza? Williams and Mohammed offer a plausible response through a subsequent book My Name is Sangoel, depicting a Sudanese refugee mother and her two children encountering unique obstacles while integrating into an American community. Amid intense Common Core State Standards, I am indebted to authors like Ellis, Williams and Mohammed who nudge teachers as global citizens to assume the responsibility for examining the voices of powerless children.

  6. Christina Johnson says:

    Wow! What a wonderful story. I read this story with my third graders and I had to wipe a tear from my eye as I finished the book. This was a great story to share with my students because some know someone who is fighting in Afghanistan but they really don’t know what life is like for those people who are refugees. My students loved predicting and inferring what the sandals really meant to the girls. As a class we came to the conclusion the sandals represented friendship and freedom. My class is hoping that Feroza and everyone like her gets put on the list to come to America.

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