I have written about many of these before, but I realized I never compiled my list of all time favorites from Barefoot Books. This list covers a couple of board books, a bunch of picture books, a sing-a-long, an anthology and an early chapter book. What do they all have in common? Beautiful artwork and compelling stories and/or information that will draw children and adults in. Some of these books we have owned for years now and our copies are quite worn because I love reading and re-reading them. As my kiddos grow and new titles come out, the pile of well-loved books from Barefoot just grows larger.
Note: In addition to the usual book covers for each title, I am including a inside spread from most books because you simply have to see the art to understand why I am so enthusiastic about Barefoot Books.
The More We Get Together by Celeste Courtright. It may be a classic song for little ones, but the creative team who turned it into a sing-a-long book have breathed new life into this tune. The vibrant pictures and message of community is simply heartwarming. Read more of my thoughts on this book here.
Mama Panya’s Pancakes by Mary and Rich Chamberlin. If I could only keep one Barefoot Book on my shelves, it would be this one. While it’s a story that can easily grow with your family from toddler years right up through early elementary ages, I started reading it to my kids when they were a month old (they didn’t complain!) and it’s still one we visit regularly. I love the Kenyan village setting, I love Adika’s joyful exuberance and confidence that they have enough to share with all their friends and I love the neighbors of all ages who come together in the end to create a shared feast.
Dara’s Clever Trap by Liz Flannagan. Years ago I read an article that suggested that one key to getting more young girls interested in science might be found in storytelling. Personally, I think it is human nature to be drawn to stories and I rely heavily to stories to introduce science to my little ones. They in turn, love stories of scientists, inventors, and makers. And if these creative characters outwit people of… ahem … bad intent, so much the better. I credit this combination with making this book a winner both at our house and from my old library story times. This tale of a Princess in Cambodia omits the damsel in distress in favor of an engineering mastermind, who traps the kingdom’s most dishonest schemers and saves her husband. And instead of simply living happily ever after, Dara and her prince contentedly live out their days designing, building and governing with great wisdom. Highly recommend!
Story Tree by Hugh Lupton. If you’d like to create a home library filled with folktales from around the world without spending a fortune, Story Tree would be my top suggestion for your shelves. It contains classic tales from Germany, Russia, India and more. My kiddos favorites from this volume are “The Magic Porridge Pot” and the funny “Monkey-See, Monkey-Do.” In my experience, anthologies can be quite hit or miss, but this one and several other of collections published by Barefoot are well worth the money and bookshelf space.
My Granny Went to Market by Stella Blackstone. Oh, but I would have loved it if one of my grandmothers had bought a magic carpet and travelled around the world picking up unique treasures when I was a child. It would be even better if she eventually met up with me and handed off said flying carpet so I could trot around the world myself. Since a trip around the globe, via carpet or any other mode of transportation, is in not in my family’s immediate future, I’m glad we can travel by book along with this adventuresome granny. Fun rhymes and colorful pictures help this book stand out from the hoards of other counting books.
Barefoot Books Children of the World by Kate DePalma and Tess Strickland. If Barefoot Books has a “signature” book, this is probably it. And with good reason. The straightforward and compelling text, along with David Dean’s striking hand-painted illustrations, embodies the company’s manifesto, which proclaims a commitment to “honor diversity in every sphere of life” Children of the World has won all sorts of awards and accolades. I love how it celebrates (without being the tiniest bit didactic) the many types of families, homes, holidays, beliefs, bodies and feelings experienced by children around the globe. Plus it’s both a great read aloud and an attention-grabbing one to simply leave out at home or in a classroom for children to discover and examine on their own.
Herb the Vegetarian Dragon by Jules Bass. If Mama Panya is my personal favorite Barefoot title, Herb takes home the Kids’ Choice Award in our family. Knights setting out to stop dragons who are intent on devouring the sweet princesses and crunchy knights of a kingdom is the stuff of a standard fairy tale. But in a twist, the true hero of this book is not a sword wielding knight, but rather a lovable dragon. Gentle, unique, true to himself and steadfast ’til the end, Herb, with the backing of a very loyal and brave friend, ultimately brings peace to both people and dragons.
Chandra’s Magic Light by Theresa Heine. This is a beautiful story about sibling love and enterprising young children set in Nepal. The two endearing sisters in this book see a solar lamp at the market and realize immediately that their family needs one. The smoky lamp that they currently light their home with has caused lung trouble for their baby brother. When they bring the idea home to their father, he sadly tells them the family can’t afford it. Undeterred, the sisters set out to earn the money and restore their brother’s health themselves.
Sounds Around Town by Maria Carluccio. The last two on my list were early editions to our home library. This board book is filled with pictures and sounds that are familiar to most babies and toddlers. The well-done cut paper illustrations, gentle pacing and simple scenes are perfect for parents to read and talk about with their youngest children. A lovely book to help with early language development.
Peek-a-Boo Set by Phillis Gershator. The three books in this set can be purchased individually, but personally I would want them all in my home for my babies. Children are fascinated by animals from their earliest months and these amazingly illustrated volumes, which introduce the inhabitants of the farm, the garden and the forest, are given an extra dose of fun with the peek-a-boo holes that effortlessly turn reading into playing for babies and their adults. If I were making my baby registry again, this collection would be on it for sure.
These aren’t books, but I love them enough that they get an honorable mention. My kiddos love when I make up stories to tell them, so I am frequently spinning yarns about tractors that get stuck in a ditch and twins with super powers. Every once in awhile, I can use a bit of a boost to think of something new and it’s fun to stretch my creativity. That’s where these storytelling cards really shine. Barefoot Books Storytelling Cards are a marvelous edition to your home. You can get a set that contains the Community Helpers, Ocean Adventure, and Magical Castle cards or if you have a budding astronaut or alien lover, you can try Space Quest. There are a number of ways to play with these, but we keep it simple: pick three or four and tell a story about the characters, scenes and scenarios on the cards. My kids are starting to get in on the action too, so if your kids are preschool aged or older, they can flex some storytelling muscles too.
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