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The Secret of the Tattered Shoes


Jackie Morris, illus. Ehsan Abdollahi
Tiny Owl
Age 7-9 years

Based on The Twelve Dancing Princesses by the Brothers Grimm this version is part of publisher Tiny Owl’s ‘One story, Many Voices’ series. It is an exquisite book, beautifully written and with magical illustrations. It provides an optimistic, alternative ending to the story, with the soldier who solves the mystery of the princesses’ tattered shoes rejecting the harshness of the King and his court in favour of love and wisdom elsewhere.

Watch a trailer

Listen to the story read aloud 


Share the story

Talk about the story

  • There are some beautiful descriptions in the story, share your favourite lines

  • What would you do if you had a cloak which made you invisible?

  • Listen to the original version read aloud 

  • What differences are there in this modern version? Why did the author decide to make these changes?

  • Think about the decisions the princesses and the king made. Talk about whether you think the princesses were right or wrong to trick the young men and why they did this. What might have made the king kill the young men who tried to find out what was happening?

‘The Secret of the Tattered Shoes is a wonderful and beautifully illustrated book.  

Once Larra began reading, she was engrossed in the story of the soldier and the events taking place in the nearby castle.

The words in the book are incredibly descriptive and she was exposed to new words.  The story itself is mysterious and Larra was drawn in from the get-go and asked hundreds of questions.  Together we spoke about reasons the shoes would be tattered; perhaps there were mice in the castle or perhaps the castle staff were wearing them and going out!  The elements of magic were also fun and Larra said she wished she could have an invisibility cloak too and solve crimes.

Larra decided to draw pictures of various shoes with different designs fashioning them for princesses. It was wonderful to see her take the book to an activity level and she shared her pictures and thoughts with family and friends.  As there were so many images in the book of flowers, plants and trees, we decided to have a play around with some henna patterns on her hand during the Easter holidays which was a lot of fun!  She was also fascinated about the princesses dancing every night and enjoyed dressing up as though she were going to a ball and dancing in the living room.

Larra read this book several times alone and sometimes to an adult too.  Her Papa really enjoyed it and she read it to him the most. I would definitely recommend this book and hope your child gets as much joy and inspiration from it as mine did.’

Things to make and do

Imagine you are invisible
Find a piece of dark material to wrap around you to be a cloak and imagine you are invisible can you walk really quietly so no one hears you?

Write a poem
Look through the book and choose some favourite descriptive lines eg ‘the green light of sunlight’, ‘an orchestra of birdsong’,  ‘mysterious as twilight’, and write them on strips of paper. When you have about five or six choose an order to put them in, stick them on paper and decorate your poem.

Make a picture
Make a line drawing and collage picture of a scene from the story like the illustrator Ehsan Abdollahi. you will need paper, a fine felt tip pen and different papers eg tissue or shiny paper and glue. You could use colouring pencils to colour your drawings too.

Write an advert for extra strong dancing slippers
Create your own design for dancing slippers which won’t wear out so quickly. Draw a sketch of your design and think about what they might be made from. Write your own advert to persuade the king to buy them for his daughters.

See our print-off activity book with some of these ideas and other activities


Find out more

Read more books written by Jackie Morris Mrs Noah’s Pockets  illustrated by James Mayhew

Find out more about author and award winning illustrator Jackie Morris 

Follow Ehsan Abdollahi on Instagram 

Read the story on which this is based here