Multicultural Books for Kids from Barefoot Books
I recently reconnected with the folks at Barefoot Books and I was so impressed by how they handled my feedback that I am now a very satisfied customer ready, willing, and able to sing their praises far and wide. To me, it’s a superb example of extremely great customer service.
It all started several years ago when my preschool did a Barefoot Books fundraiser. I bought a pile of books but none of them resonated with my kids. I later attended a second Barefoot Books home party with similar results. 2 dozen books in the house and no kid who wanted any part of them. When Leah Lesser, Group Communications Director of Barefoot Books, reached out to me to tell me about their new location in Concord, I was straight up with her. I went through the catalog and listed the books that I had purchased and told her that none of my kids had liked the books I had selected so despite having mom friends rave about Barefoot Books, they were not working for me, and thus I would be unable to blog on them. However, if I somehow missed the good ones and she was willing to send me her picks, I’d try again with my kids.
What blew me away was that Leah sent me books that she knew my kids and I would enjoy. How did she know? It’s quite apparent that she spent some time reading my blog. She knew I did yoga. She knew my oldest and I love Greek mythology. She even knew that I’m half Chinese with a father from mainland China!
The book and card selection that Leah sent showed me a whole different side of Barefoot Books. What I loved about each item was that it combined an educational aspect with entertainment. The books have nuances that include multi-cultural themes (Little Leap Forward), magical realism (The Boy Who Grew Flowers), and math concepts (The Real Princess) that makes each book special, interesting, and engaging. As for the card decks, these are really well done and I know that we will be using them a lot!
I guess that the moral of the story is that you can’t judge a publisher by just two dozen titles! And that truly, to get a child interested in reading how important it is to match their interests with the books. Clearly, I did not do that with my Barefoot Book selection the first go-round. I think I matched MY interests instead. Oops!
Thank you again to Leah Lesser for the wonderful selection of books. I will be giving away The Real Princess: A Mathemagical Tale by Brian Williams as my Kindergartener is a boy and never did get into princess stories. 🙂
Please leave me a comment on why you want the book and I will select a winner based on the most compelling reason and/or please leave me a comment on your favorite Barefoot Books.
The Boy Who Grew Flowers by Jen Wojtowicz, illustrated by Steve Adams
My son loves this magical realism story that reminds me of Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel but perfect for the picture book set. The boy who grew flowers has a usual ability to grow flowers from his body at the full moon and this unusual skill combined with the oddness of his family keeps him on the periphery at school. When a new girl arrives, he notices that one of her legs is slightly longer than the other. He makes her a special gift and they realize that they both possess a special gift with flowers. I really love this gentle message of looking for a special gift in others especially if they seem unusual. [picture book, ages 5-9]
The yoga lineup of contributors for this card deck reads like a who’s who list for the power yoga players in Boston, but the end result is a fun game doing yoga poses (which my kids think are super fun and funny). My oldest has been doing yoga as physical therapy for tight hamstrings and injury prevention. She doesn’t love yoga but she needs it and these cards make yoga more fun and also help remind her of what postures to practice. My younger two are pretzels and love to do yoga poses for the giggles so they particularly enjoy mixing up the cards and trying out the poses. This would be fun to do as a family activity as well. [yoga cards for instruction and games suitable for all ages]
It may not feel like spring just yet in New England, but these cards can turn a summer from the boring blahs into something exciting. There are 40 well-thought-out and detailed activities to keep the kids outdoors and engaged in projects that feel like fun but are also educational, adventurous, and creative. The best part is that you don’t have to think them up yourself. The topics include Exploring The Garden (a.k.a. being a scientist), Planting and Growing (a.k.a. Biology), Fun with Plants (a.k.a. Botanist), Discovering Creatures (a.k.a. more Biology), Creating Garden Art (a.k.a. Arts and Crafts Meets Biology). I have a couple of unscheduled weeks this summer with the kids and I normally only have a few tricks up my sleeve to keep them outdoors so I am going to let my kids choose from the cards to pick out projects for each day we’re free. And here’s another thought: this deck of activity cards is a lot less expensive than 3 kids in summer camp! [card deck suitable for all ages but sweet spot, preschool through 5th grade]
My oldest took the National Mythology Exam for fun but she wasn’t able to take the subtest on The Odyssey, The Iliad, or The Aeneid. The books that were recommended for the study were the very same translations that I read in college so I didn’t bother to buy them for her. She has plenty of time for that! When this book arrived, my eldest snatched it up, read it in one sitting, and then told me how much she liked it. I guess she can now take the subtest on The Odyssey the next go-round if she wants to. And the story of Odysseus is a great one so I am happy that Hugh Lupton has made it accessible for a 5th grader! [chapter book, ages 9-14]
The Real Princess: A Mathemagical Tale by Brian Williams
This book is great in that it appeals to girls and makes math fun. It takes the Princess and the Pea story and incorporates math like counting, adding, and subtracting. My son loves math picture books, but he is not as fond of princesses. There are lots of picture books with math concepts out there but very few that specifically speak to little girls so this book fills that gap nicely. [picture book, ages 4-9]
Little Leap Forward: A Boy in Beijing by Guo Yue and Clare Farrow, illustrated by Helen Cann
The Cultural Revolution in China is a difficult topic for me personally. While my father escaped it, many of his friends who studied at UCLA with him returned to China and suffered tremendously during this time. When we visited them in 1988, some of his professor friends were missing parts of their fingers after spending time in the countryside and they would not talk about what happened. Perhaps the room was bugged or that the memories were too painful. Little Leap Forward is a beautiful and accurate story of what life was like before and during the Cultural Revolution but told in a way that is both powerful and appropriate for children. This would be perfect for children studying China or for those who think and wonder about different governing systems. [easy chapter book with wide leading and many full-page illustrations throughout the book, ages 9-12]
To examine any book more closely at Barefoot Books Online Store, please click on the image of the book (or card deck).
Congratulations to Christina who won The Real Princess picture book!
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BEST #OWNVOICES CHILDREN’S BOOKS: My Favorite Diversity Books for Kids Ages 1-12 is a book that I created to highlight books written by authors who share the same marginalized identity as the characters in their books.