If you take a look at the inside flap of a Barefoot book, you will find the Barefoot message proudly written under the name Barefoot and a drawing of two tiny feet. It says,
“At Barefoot Books, we celebrate art and story that opens the hearts and minds of children from all walks of life, inspiring them to read deeper, search further, and explore their own creative gifts. Taking our inspiration from many different cultures, we focus on themes that encourage independence of spirit, enthusiasm for learning, and sharing of the world’s diversity”.
I have come across Barefoot books at my local library and in some bookshops and to me they have always stood out as a little different from the more widely known about or more commercially packaged children’s books. They stand out because they bring meaningful stories together with beautiful artwork in a way that goes against today’s commercialisation of childhood – every time. They also encourage exploration of and respect for different lands and cultures – very often a Barefoot book will come with cultural notes and background information about the country/continent explored.
6 beautiful children’s books from Barefoot for you to explore
The Boy Who Grew Flowers, written by Jen Wojtowicz, illustrated by Steve Adams This is one of our favourite Barefoot books and I’ve read it over and over again to my children. Meet Rink, a very special boy who, every full moon grows flowers all over his body. One day at school Rink meets Angelina Quiz, a girl with her own secret. And together they discover the joy of difference, of acceptance and real friendship. Jen Wojtowicz dedicates this book to her brother, Wally, “because you were there to show me that what makes us different is what makes us wonderful”. Age 4+
Lin Yi’s Lantern – A Moon Festival Tale, written by Brenda Williams, illustrated by Benjamin Lacombe A heartwarming tale of a little boy who learns that putting others first and being patient brings its reward in the end. Lin Yi is desperate for a red rabbit lantern for the Moon Festival taking place later that day. First, though, has to buy the things his mother needs at the market. Lin Yi bargains hard but still does not have enough money for his little red lantern. Lin Yi accepts this graciously but Uncle Hui has one last surprise for Lin Yi. Benjamin Lancombe’s illustrations are so beautiful that I’ve included some for you to enjoy below. This lovely book includes educational notes at the end about The Legend of the Moon Fairy, life in rural China and instructions on how to make your very own Chinese lantern. Age 3+
Lola’s Fandango, written by Anna Witte, illustrated by Micha Archer, storytime CD narrated by The Amador Family Now we spend time with Lola and her family in their small apartment in the middle of a busy city in Spain. Lola is always looking up to her big sister, Clementina, and feels she lives in her shadow. Even her name sounds so much better. Cle-men-ti-na. One day Lola discovers her mother’s old Flamenco shoes hidden away in a cupboard. Does Lola have the talent and duende, or spirit, to learn Flamenco? Lola and her Papi meet secretly to share the rhythm and the steps of Flamenco up on the roof of their apartment block, all through Spring, Summer, Autumn. “Soon it will be too cold to dance on the roof”. Will Lola be ready to dance at her Mami’s surprise birthday party? The story’s text is wonderfully punctuated by the sounds of Flamenco: dancing shoes on the floor – Tap! Tap! Toca toca TICA!; the clapping of the Flamenco rythmn – 1-2-3, 4-5-6, 7-8, 9-10, 11-12!; and the snapping of Lola’s fingers – Snap! Shap! And beautiful, vibrant illustrations capture the colour of Spain. Age 2+
Watch a Barefoot behind-the-scenes video with the Amador Family who narrate the storytime CD that comes with the book.
Indian Tales – A Barefoot Collection, written by Shenaaz Nanji, illustrated by Christopher Corr Head East and we reach India, a country of contrasts, colour and life. The writer, Shenaaz Nanji, introduces this collection by explaining how stories live on in India – the best-known are passed by word of mouth from one generation to the next, some are told through folk songs, dances, plays and puppet shows and others by professional storytellers travelling from one district to the next. The stories collected together in this book are organised into their different regions and each section includes a description of the region and key facts. The regions covered are Gujarat, Punjab, Nagaland, Uttar Pradesh,Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan and Kerala – a trip of a lifetime! Age 8+
The Animal Boogie, illustrated by Debbie Harter, sung by Fred Penner, includes enhanced CD with audio and video animation of the story We’re staying in India but this time we are dancing deep in the Indian jungle. All the different jungle animals are teaching children from around the world how to shake, swing, stomp, flap, leap, slither and sway in time to the jungle rythmn. The CD that comes with this book includes animated video with audio singalong and words that children can enjoy the songs along with the characters of the story. Age 2+
The Shipwreck, The Inuk Quartet Volume 1, written by Jorn Riel, illustrated by Helen Cann, a paperback chapter book from the Advanced Readers section of the Independent Readers Series Our Barefoot journey ends in the frozen, ice-covered wilderness of Greenland. Leiv, raised on his family farm in Iceland, is seeking revenge for the murder of his father. He stows away on a ship bound for Greenland. Nearing the coast, the ship is crushed by moving ice floes. Close to death, Leiv is rescued by two Inuit children, Apuluk and Narua. And what follows is a moving, insightful look at the lives of the Inuit people living off the land and sea of Greenland. Jorn Riel describes the Inuit’s nomadic way of life, their temporary homes (stone and turf or igloos in winter, tents made of sealskins sewn together in summer) and their tradition of storytelling. ”In winter, when it was dark for most of the day, time often hung heavy. That was when Shinka [Apuluk and Narua's grandfather] began to tell his stories.” We learn about the changeable weather – it is no surprise to Apulak and Narua when it snows in the middle of summer. We learn about the way the Inuit get everything, absolutely everything, from the land and sea around them - seals, food and clothing; walrus, thongs, skins for boot soles and meat; reindeer, warm sleeping bags, anoraq and delicious meat; bears, meat for dogs and people, skins for clothing and sleeping; and so on and so on. “You are right”, Leiv acknowledges, “What more could one want?” Riel describes an Inuit child’s life of being on the move, finding security in their families and unconstrained by “clock time. They slept when they were tired; they often played well into the small hours, ate when they were hungry and worked when they felt like it. Maybe that is why Inuit children grew up to be happy and contented people”. Leiv learns much too – peace, tolerance, respect, respect for people and the natural world. “We have never had war”, Narua said. ”But maybe that is because the people up here do not have so much. Here we share everything and do not crave what others have”. The wonderful text is beautifully supported by Helen Cann’s illustrations which were inspired by a visit to the Artic Circle. Age 10+
Barefoot Books full catalogue is available to view and books can be purchased on their website. Their paper catalogue is as beautifully produced as their books! The asterisk following Give Back in the title, just so that you know, refers to the support Barefoot Books gives to organisations that share the same goals – ”of global understanding, empowering children through art and story, and protecting and preserving the earth for future generations”.