Skip to content

The King With Dirty Feet

Sally Pomme Clayton, illus. Rhiannon Sanderson
Otter Barry
Age 5-7

Based on a traditional tale from India and Bangladesh, this picturebook tells an imaginative tale about the invention of shoes. The king is shocked to find his feet still dirty when he steps out of the river. His servant is given the thankless task of solving the problem and is unsuccessful. Fortunately, a resourceful citizen saves the day!

Beautifully related by a skilled storyteller with patterned language and repetition this is an amusing and attractive picturebook, which would be great to read aloud.

Share the story

Read aloud
Before beginning the story look at the title and the cover illustration together and talk about what might happen in this story. Read the story aloud allowing time to look at the illustrations and talk about them.

Join in
Once children are familiar with the story you can invite them to join in with the counting, the repetitions ‘sweep, sweep’, ‘splosh splosh’, ‘stitch, stitch’ and the exclamation ‘Zut!’

Talk about the story

  • Look back at the illustrations together, talk about all the things happening in the opening spread, spot the monkey on most pages and the old man watching Gabu’s failed attempts to keep the king’s feet clean.

  • What might the people in the palace (or his pet monkey) have thought about the King and his smelly feet? Look at the illustrations for clues.

  • Talk about things Gabu could have tried to keep the king’s feet clean.

  • Talk about when it is nice to have bare feet – eg on a beach, in a paddling pool or on cool grass in the summer perhaps. And also why people wear shoes – is it just to keep feet clean.

Things to make and do

Make a comic strip version of the story
Divide a piece of A4 paper into eight sections. Suggest your child draws the sequence of scenes in the story one in each section. They could add speech bubbles as well like a comic strip. This will come in handy for telling the story.

Tell the story
Tell the story together taking turns to tell different parts – it doesn’t matter if you use slightly different wording, just aim to get the shape of the story the same, with the same ‘problem’ (the king’s dirty feet) and the three things Gabu tries before the old man saves the day.

Design a set of shoes for the king
A king will need a large collection of shoes. Your child could try designing some – drawing pictures of different kinds of shoes fit for a king – or you could use scraps of coloured cloth or paper to make collage versions.

Make a shoe shop
Collect together lots of pairs of shoes from your household to make a temporary (!) shoe shop  display. Talk about the different kinds of shoes, what they are for, what they are made from, which are the biggest and smallest. Your child could decide how to organise them and add labels or price tags.

Role play being customer or shop assistant shopping for shoes, perhaps even pretending to be the king from the story searching for new shoes.

Find out more

Find out about writer and storyteller Sally Pomme Clayton 

Find out about illustrator Rhiannon Sanderson 

Have a look at some of the earliest shoes in the V & A Museum collection Timeline (