Teens' Book of the Month: The Red Shoes

Teens' Book of the Month: The Red Shoes
Category: Parents

Book: The Red Shoes and Other Tales by Metaphrog | Age category: 12-16+

Hans Christian Anderson’s fairy tales have prompted many idealised adaptations over the years, but in this graphic novel Metaphrog revive the dark, evocative atmosphere of the original tales in a compelling retelling.

The Red Shoes follows an orphaned girl in a rags-to-riches story with a disturbing hidden curse, and this is complemented by two similarly haunting stories: The Little Match Girl, another of Anderson’s tales, and The Glass Case, a Metaphrog original.

Beautiful illustrations complement these tragic stories to create an eerie and chilling atmosphere, perfect for reading on cold wintry nights.

Q&A with Metaphrog

John Chalmers and Sandra Marrs make up the comic and graphic novel duo Metaphrog.

What were your favourite stories as children?

Sandra: As a child, growing up near Paris, I was very lucky to be encouraged to read by my grandmother and her sisters. My favourite series of books was Fantômette, written by George Chaulet and illustrated over the years by different artists – my favourite one being Josette Stéfani. The stories were about a school girl by day and masked crime-fighter by night. They were funny, quirky and quite addictive.

My dad had a collection of Bande Dessinée albums, including Tintin that I used to love reading and still enjoy reading to this day.

I also read fairy tale books and listened to recorded versions on vinyl – they used to make those in the 60s and 70s. I could listen to Tintin records too but somehow found the sad and beautiful tale of The Little Mermaid particularly moving. The illustrated pages held a strong attraction for me and I still find the stories thrilling.

John: Although I grew up in a different country and a different decade to Sandra – we actually read a lot of the same things. As a child I loved reading comics, including Tintin, and also Scottish comics like The Broons and Oor Wullie or Victor and Commando, stories by cartoonists like Dudley D. Watkins and Denis McLoughlin. I also loved books like Down With Skool, written by Geoffrey Willans and illustrated by Ronald Searle. Other favourites included Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass: books that really take you deeply into their worlds, and the Sherlock Holmes books – an amazing and inspirational character.

My mum had lots of old, strange books, fairy tales and folk tales, often with gorgeous or even grotesque illustrations that really drew me in to [the books]. Something about these stories and their possibilities is incredibly powerful and attractive.

Both of us are fortunate to love books and reading: it helps to create a child’s inner world and provides fuel for imagination.


What other books have you illustrated?

Sandra: Over the years I have illustrated lots of different books including: Skint! working with the playwright Gowan Calder, for Scottish Book Trust; the Pig series of humorous stories written by Barbara Catchpole, and we have even produced a comic version of The First Men on Mercury, Edwin Morgen’s poem, for National Poetry Day 2009.

John: Writing and working together with Sandra under the name Metaphrog, we have also created lots of comics and graphic novels over the past 21 years: here the drawing is not simply illustrative but works in a dynamic combination with the words to produce something original – an art form in its own right.

Our Louis graphic novels have proved popular with children and adults alike and have received award nominations and commendations from around the world.

We also worked on a graphic novel version of Time to Shine, for Creative Scotland to support the Scottish Youth Art strategy.


Have you anything in the pipeline?

This year we have been fortunate to receive funding from Creative Scotland to research, write and create new work. So there are a few things in the pipeline but they’re all top secret at the moment.



We have 5 copies of The Red Shoes and Other Tales to be won! To be in with a chance of winning one, just answer this question:

What is the name of Metaphrog’s first serialised comic, which was published between 1996-1999?


Send your answer to Sarah Mallon at sarah.mallon@scottishbooktrust.com. Competition closes on Wednesday 30 December 2015 at 5pm.

Entrants outside the UK must cover postage.