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In this picture book retelling of Leo Tolstoy’s more than century-old fairy tale, Martin, a poor, pious Russian man makes his living by mending shoes. In fact, he’s familiar with most of the shoes people wear as they pass by the window of his basement apartment because he’s mended them at one time or another.

After each day’s work, Martin reads the pages of his Bible. His happiness increases the more he reads. One evening, he reads the story of Jesus visiting the home of Zacchaeus. Martin wonders, “If Jesus comes to visit me, what would I say? What would I do? How would I welcome him?”

Later that night, Martin is awakened by a knock on his door and someone saying, “Make sure you watch the street tomorrow, because I shall be coming!” The next morning, Martin isn’t sure whether he dreamed the voice or if it had been real.

That day, he encounters Stephan, the poor street sweeper; a woman and her baby shivering outside in the cold; and an angry woman punishing a poor urchin who stole an apple from her market stall. In each case, Martin offers hospitality and words of spiritual direction and concern. Later, he is filled with joy when realizes that “Jesus really visited him that day, and he, Martin, had taken him in.”

Bernadette Watts’s warm, glowing illustrations portray the loving, quiet piety of Martin’s character and way of life, as well as the 19th-century Russian society, architecture, and community life of the time in which Tolstoy lived.

Shoemaker Martin is a book to be savored again and again as it shows young readers the biblical truth that when we meet and help others, we are encountering Jesus himself. Ages 4 and up.  (NorthSouth Books)

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