Ben thinks his sneakers are the secret to making new friends.

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How do you put your best foot forward?Ben sat on an empty packing carton and watched his dad unpack pots and pans. “How will I make new friends?” he asked his dad. “What if my teacher doesn’t like me?”

“You’ll have to put your best foot forward.” His dad’s voice echoed as he bent inside the carton.

Ben stared down at the hole in the end of his favorite high-topped sneaker. A bit of white sock peeked out. “Which foot is my best foot, Dad?”

But his dad leaned farther into the box and didn’t hear the question.

Ben wiggled his toe. If he was going to put his best foot forward, it should be wearing better shoes.

“I’d better find my new high-tops,” he said.

“Try the carton in your closet,” said his dad.

In his room Ben searched the carton. He shoved aside books, pulled up a catcher’s mitt, and found his football.

Finally he hollered, “I can’t find my high-tops!”

“We’ll come across them,” his dad yelled back.

Ben slipped off his sneakers. Then he carried them to the bathroom, scrubbed the soles, and brushed off the tops.

The next morning Ben pulled on jeans and a T-shirt. He tugged on the old sneakers and wiggled his toe. He would have to wait to put his best foot forward.

Five minutes before the bus was due, Ben walked to the corner. Six other kids stood waiting. The bus pulled up, and everyone rushed to get on. A little girl in front of Ben dropped her lunch box. It thumped down the steps. Ben picked it up and handed it to her. The girl looked at Ben with big owl eyes. A kindergartner, thought Ben."That's a neat picture," Ben said.

At noon a group of boys played kickball. Once, the ball flew straight toward him. Ben threw it back. It was a good throw, and the boy who caught it gave him a thumbs-up. Ben recognized him from the classroom.

Later in art class, Ben watched the boy behind him draw a tyrannosaur. “That’s a neat picture,” Ben said. The boy nodded and kept on drawing.

At the end of the day the teacher announced, “Please pick a partner for tomorrow’s art project.” Everybody started talking. Ben felt a tap on his shoulder. It was the dinosaur drawer. “Partners?” the boy asked.

Ben grinned and said, “Partners.”

As Ben walked to the bus, the boy who had caught the ball stopped him. “You want to be on our team tomorrow?” he asked.

“Sure,” Ben answered.

Ben climbed the steps and looked for a seat on the crowded bus. He felt a tug on his T-shirt. The kindergarten girl moved over, and Ben sat down.

At his stop, Ben hopped off the bus and hurried home."Sounds like a great day," said Dad.

“I’m here,” he yelled as he pushed open the door.

“How was your first day?” Dad asked.

Ben told his dad about the bus, noon recess, and the art project.

“Sounds like a great day.” Dad dangled Ben’s new high-tops from his fingers. “By the way, I found them.”

“Great. Tomorrow I’ll be able to put my best foot forward,” Ben said.

“Putting your best foot forward means making a good impression,” said Dad. “I’d say you’ve already done that.”

Ben grinned and wiggled his toe.