Indian Shoes

Written By: Cynthia Leitich Smith

Illustrated By: Jim Madsen


For parents of independent readers, we provide a set of questions that should give you insight into what your child is reading and help you engage him/her in meaningful conversations about literature. We recommend using the questions provided here as a springboard for deeper conversation about Indian Shoes and what your child takes away from the book. Enjoy!


Indian Shoes is a collection of six short stories about the daily life of a Native American boy named Ray and his Grampa. These stories follow them as Ray tries to ease Grampa’s homesickness for Oklahoma with a pair of moccasins, they search for a pair of pants for Ray to wear to a wedding at the last minute, and they celebrate Christmas with their neighbors’ pets in the dark. And that is just naming a few of the experiences that they share in this book. These wonderfully endearing stories demonstrate what it’s like for Ray to “grow up as a Seminole-Cherokee boy who is just as happy pounding the pavement in windy Chicago as rowing on a lake in rural Oklahoma.”

Discussion Questions

  1. How would you describe the relationship that Ray has with his Grampa? Why do you think they are so close? Do you share a relationship like this with anyone in our family? If so, who is it?
  2. In “Indian Shoes”, how can Ray tell that Grampa is homesick? What does he do to make him feel better?
  3. What would you have done if you had been faced with the same problem that Ray and Grampa are confronted with in “Don’t Forget The Pants!”?
  4. In “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner”, it seems like everything is going all wrong, but Ray and Grampa still find a way to enjoy their Christmas. Why do you think they were able to stay positive? How do you cheer yourself up when things seem to be going badly?
  5. Why do you think the author, Cynthia Leitich Smith, chose to end the book with the story “Night Fishing”?
  6. What do all of these stories have in common? Do you have a favorite story? If so, which one is it and why is it your favorite? What makes this book different from a novel?
  7. Can you point out parts of the book that hint to Ray and Grampa’s Native American heritage? If you are curious to learn more about Native Americans, use these resources  for more information on Native American heritage and culture.

Above all, be sure to engage your child in a discussion about the plot line and his/her thoughts and feelings about the book. Ask what s/he likes, encourage exploration related to the book, and every now and again, offer to read parts of the book aloud, just for fun!