Four Feet, Two Sandals, by Karen Lynn Williams and Khadra Mohammed, tells the story of two ten-year-old girls, Lina and Feroza, and their families, who are living in a refugee camp in Pakistan, having fled the war in Afghanistan. The girls become friends when each finds one sandal from a matching pair, after relief workers throw used clothing from the back of a truck. The girls meet and decide to share the sandals, taking turns wearing them.
The story describes the girls’ lives in the camp and the stressful wait for new homes. The girls wait in long lines for water, wash their clothes with rocks in the stream, and practice their writing skills with sticks in the sand because the only “schools was small with only nought room for the boys to study.”
Eventually, Lina’s family receives permission to emigrate to the United States, and Feroza gives the sandals to Lina, saying, “You cannot go barefoot to America.” But when it is time for Lina to leave, Lina gives the shoes back to Feroza, as Lina’s mother has saved money to buy her shoes. However, Feroza tells Lina she must keep one sandal, noting that “it is good to remember.”
The story, with its beautiful illustrations, explores concepts of friendship, home and homelessness, the experience of being a refugee, and identity.
Here are some questions that elementary school students have asked after listening to the story:
Why do people become refugees?
Are countries that can provide safety obligated to allow in people escaping their homelands?
Do countries have different obligations to their citizens than to other people around the world?
Why do the girls decide to share the shoes?
What makes Lina and Feroza friends?
Can friendship help people to feel more at home when they have fled their homes? If so, how?
Why are only boys in school in the refugee camp?
Are Lina’s and Feroza’s experiences in the camp different than they would be if they were boys?
Why does Feroza give Lina one shoe at the end of the story?
Did Lina do the right thing in accepting the shoe?
Can giving help us even when we need what we are giving away?