Saturday, July 14, 2007

Barefoot in the Blog with Books

Nancy Traversy and Tessa Strickland founded Barefoot Books in 1993, fulfilling their mission "to cultivate creativity, encourage independence and celebrate cultural diversity" through their company and its products. Based in Bath, England and Cambridge, Massachusetts, with their bricks and mortar store located in Porter Square (for all you familiar with the "T"), Barefoot Books is also committing itself to a more green way of practicing business and by aligning itself with selected "environmental partners". With impressive press online and in print and kudos from actors and activists alike (Levar Burton is my fav of course), Barefoot Books is enjoying some very popular publicity. Recently featured in Inc. Magazine, Traversy takes us through the history, joys and challenges of the birth of this woman-owned company. But how would a few of their books stand up to the test of an unshowered wanna-greenie like me?

What's This? A Seed's Story, written and illustrated by Caroline Mockford, is a simply-told story following a sunflower seed through the seasons. The illustrations, in broad, bold acrylics, feature an adorable girl and her marmalade cat. My children enjoyed following the seed's story and especially like looking for the kitty on each page. What's This? would be an excellent way of introducing young children to seeds and of leading into a project where they actually plant a sunflower seed of their own!

A Forest of Stories was too advanced for my children, but what a wonderful book this is for older children and adults. Written by Rina Singh, with illustrations bordering and interspersed among the text by Helen Cann, A Forest of Stories, is a collection of seven tales celebrating the magical properties of trees. Each story begins with an illustration of the tree and a description of some of its characteristics. The illustrations, done in graphite, collage and watercolor, convey the uniqueness of each of the different cultures highlighted: from the cherry blossom tree in India to the pomogranate tree in the Moroccan desert. The inspiration for these stories came from several sources which Singh lists at the end of the book. A Forest of Trees would make a wonderful gift or addition to your folktale library.

The next book is an interesting example of where the recommended grade-level of a book (4-8) clearly has no bearing on the interest-level of a book. Herb, The Vegetarian Dragon, I felt, was way too advanced in concept and reading-level for my 3-year old. In fact, when he wanted me to read the book to him, I had to gloss over much of the text (Herb being chained in a dungeon, knights being chomped) but Sprout was fascinated by the illustrations and this quickly became one of his most requested "reads." I "read" the book to him by pointing out familiar concepts, such as Herb's vegetable garden, and by describing to him what was happening in the illustrations (to a point). This book is a quirky read with fun illustrations that aims to teach tolerance about alternative lifestyles (vegetarianism that is!).

Whole World, illustrated by Christopher Coor, is a richly illustrated hardcover edition of the tune "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands." This 32-page book comes with a CD tucked into the front cover which features Fred Penner singing this traditional gospel spiritual first written by the African American composer Margaret Bonds. This book features brilliant colors and drawings in a folk-art style of children from all different ethnicities in different regions of the globe. Additional nice touches include a list of 10 ways to help reduce global warming and brief descriptions at the end of the book about the ecosystems described within the book. A percentage of the money earned from the sale of this book goes to Barefoot Books' environmental partners. Sound like a perfect gift or something you'd like to buy for your own kiddies? Well, I am pleased to offer Whole World to one lucky Gift of Green reader. Simply leave a comment on my site by midnight Eastern time, Wednesday, July 18th and I will randomly choose a winner. I am willing entertain commenters from Canada as well as the U.S. and oh, what the heck, you Brits can enter too as Barefoot Books jumped the pond.

Disclosure: I was contacted by Barefoot Books and asked if I would like to review some of the items from their catalog. After reviewing their website, I decided take them up on their offer. I was not paid for this review, but I did receive four books at no charge. You can bet your bottom dollar that I would not be including a review of their products, at their request, if I did not agree with their philosophy or if I did not care for their books. I do not give any information to Barefoot Books about my readers. So got Barefoot in the Blog with Books. It's okay!

1 comment:

SusieJ said...

I love this company too -- my favorite book is the Fairy's Gift. I read it to my son's 4th grade class. It's beautiful.