Every year, Barefoot Books selects one of their beloved illustrators to decorate the main tree at a local fundraising event*. With an emphasis on art in all that Barefoot does, our tree is a reflection of the creativity and imagination that runs through all our books. This year Rachel Griffin, illustrator of the brand-new Twelve Days of Christmas, is designing original ornaments based on her book and will be travelling all the way from England to celebrate this special event with us! Rachel’s artistic style includes hand-sewn fabric collage illustrations made from a variety of different materials and vibrant colors. Unlike most versions of Twelve Days of Christmas, she incorporates imagery from various cultures including pipers from India and drummers from Africa. Her artwork and new take on the classic story makes this the perfect book for the holiday season!
The brilliantly gifted artist is hard at work creating her decorations for this year’s Twelve Days of Christmas tree and graciously shared with us some insight into her creative process.
Where do you get your inspiration?
My inspiration comes from books, museums, art galleries and my magpie eye always on the lookout for inspiring images.
There is so much detail in your artwork, what has the process been like for you creating these decorations?
The process has been quite straightforward forward as I am using the book I illustrated as a reference to work from, the visual and color scheme work had been done so it is just about using inspiration from the book to come up with 3-D images for each verse. I have sketched out the elements from each verse and created patterns for the birds and hearts, they seem to come together as I am sitting at my desk creating. I have all the materials I need for each verse laid out on my desk and by the time I have finished every inch of my studio is covered with materials: sequins, beads, etc.
Your art features many different materials, where do you find such interesting pieces? Which are your favorite to work with?
I find all my collections of material from travelling, going to antique markets, charity shops, and unusual shops in cities. I never buy online as part of my process is in the collecting and finding. On this project I have found some amazing wool felt which is a dream to work with and the colors are amazing.
Three French hens — I love the colors I have used and the 3-D images I have thought of to go with the three fat French Hens!
*Each year, the Concord Museum located in Concord, MA fills its galleries with over thirty uniquely decorated trees featuring artwork inspired by acclaimed children’s storybooks. If you’re in the area between November 25 through January 3, be sure to check out the exhibit for yourself! For more information about Family Trees or the Concord Museum visit www.concordmuseum.org.
Read the book that inspired the decorations!
A sparkling version of the popular Christmas song, in a new edition embossed with silvery-gold foiling and beautiful fabric illustrations by Rachel Griffin. This book includes an insightful note from the illustrator, information about the celebration of the Twelve Days of Christmas (history, including the pre-Christian tradition, and customs), and the history and meaning of the song itself.
For babies to 10 years; Hardcover ($14.99)
A spooky fruit and gelatin recipe straight from Dracula’s kitchen. Wash your hands before you start! Always have a grown-up in the kitchen with you when you cook. Ages 8 and up.
QUANTITY Makes 3–4 small glasses (tubs)
• 1¼ oz packet unflavored gelatin (enough to set 2½ cups liquid); For a vegetarian version, use agar-agar, following the instructions on packet
• 1½ cups blueberries or blackberries, or any fruit you wish
• 2¼ cups dark red or blue berry juice (e.g. blueberry or cranberry)
• ¼ cups boiling water
• Mixing bowl
• Measuring cup
• Containers (for gelatin)
1. Wash the fruit and pat dry with a paper towel.
2. Put the gelatin into the measuring cup. Pour ¼ cup boiling water over the gelatin and stir carefully with a spoon, to dissolve it.
3. Add the berry juice to the dissolved gelatin so that it fills the measuring cup up to 2½ cups.
4. Divide the fruit between the containers and pour the gelatin mixture over the fruit.
5. Put Dracula’s gelatin in the fridge for about 45 minutes to set.
Tip: Add more fruit than gelatin for set fruit.
The recipe shown in the picture is of Cran-Grape juice gelatin with blackberries. Yum! Download this fun Hallowe’en recipe and more here.
Encourage budding chefs to create tasty meals with 40 laminated recipe cards that feature nutritious vegetarian dishes from around the world. Unique recipes ranging from the familiar to the exotic are divided into five color-coded categories to reflect the major food groups. Simple step-by-step instructions put kids in control as they learn that cooking is more than an art — it’s a science! Includes 8-page booklet with information on nutrition, kitchen safety and terminology. This edition has been updated with even tastier recipes.
A craft to make you say “Ahhh!” Bring the friendly monsters from Grim, Grunt and Grizzle-Tail to life with a paper plate mask! While you’re creating your mask, think about a Monster Story for your own monster. How will your monster sound? Is your monster friendly or misunderstood, like Grizzle-Tail? Let your imagination shape your mask and the story to go with it. Ages 5+
WHAT TO FIND
- Paper Plates
- Tissue paper cut into small pieces
- Glue, tape and a stapler
- A small bowl with some water
- Construction paper
- Popsicle stick
- Any additional art supplies you have
WHAT TO DO
1. Sketch out the monster you’d like to make on a paper plate. Have an adult help you cut out holes for the eyes.
2. Put a small amount of craft glue into a dish and add water in equal parts. Stir together and paint the surface of the plate with the glue mixture. Layer your cut tissue paper onto the wet glue. Secure any loose ends or overlapping pieces with additional glue where necessary. Set aside to dry.
3. Use construction paper to cut out features for your monster, like big eyes, a nose and mouth. Create pointy teeth by cutting out lots of triangles. Add ears and horns to your creature by glueing them on the back of the plate. Use paint, pipe cleaners, puff balls and your imagination to make your monster unique.
4. Glue a popsicle stick to the bottom of your monster and reinforce with tape. Make your mask sturdier by stapling another plate to the back. Have an adult use scissors to make sure you can still see out of the eye-holes.
5. When you’re finished, walk around the house and pretend you’re a monster! Then, share your masks with us @barefootbooks on Instagram!
Ready to scare? Download the activity here.
Check out these Monster Stories perfect for the Hallowe’en season!
Meeting monsters on the page helps children realize that many of the scary things in life are less frightening than they appear — and that monsters can have feelings too! Inspire young readers with these adventures that teach courage, compassion and kindness.
You can’t help but wonder at the mystery surrounding All Hallows’ Eve. From Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein to the upcoming Pride and Prejudice and Zombies film, Halloween has inspired popular culture for ages, spreading from Northern Europe to as far as Hong Kong!
But how did Halloween become the holiday we know today?
- Halloween as we know it evolved from the ancient Celtic tradition of putting out treats for spirits who roamed the streets during a sacred festival that honored the dead, called “Samhain” in Ireland and “Nos Calan Gaeaf” in Wales.
- Samhain festival-goers started dressing in ghost, witch and goblin costumes to escape the notice of real spirits wandering the streets. To this day, these remain revelers’ most popular Halloween costumes; just ask the spooks from our very own Barefoot Book of Giants, Ghosts and Goblins!
- Jack o’ Lanterns originated in Ireland where people placed candles in hollowed-out turnips to keep away spirits on the Samhain holiday.
- If you’re the last one frolicking about the bonfire on Nos Calan Gaeaf, watch out! According to Welsh legend, the spirits of a giant black sow and headless woman might carry you with them back to the spirit world!
- According to tradition, if a person wears his or her clothes inside-out and walks backwards on Halloween, he or she will see a witch at midnight.
- Scottish girls believed they could see images of their future husband if they hung wet sheets in front of the fire on Halloween.
Not so keen on wearing your clothes inside-out or hanging wet sheets by a fire? Celebrate instead with our monstrously fun Halloween craft, spooky recipes or scary-fun books! Befriend a not-so-scary giant (above), gallant heroes, fiendish folk and more in Tales from Old Ireland.
Wishing you and your family a safe and spooktacular Halloween!
This fall, decorate your windows with translucent leaves that let the sun shine through! Using office supplies and tissue paper, work with your family to create a stunning window display perfect for seasonal parties. This activity is inspired by Skip through the Seasons, which teaches us about winter, spring, summer, and fall.
What You Need:
• Templates (found here)
• Tissue paper in fall colors
• Plastic sheet protectors (or contact paper)
What To Do:
1. Print out the downloadable templates. Break open the sheet protectors and apply glue sparingly to one of the inside covers.
2. Tear off pieces of tissue paper and glue them down until you have covered one side. You may need to apply more glue where the tissue paper overlaps.
3. Evenly apply glue to the other inside cover, then fold it over and press down firmly to sandwich the tissue paper. Let dry.
4. Tape leaf templates to the page (Note: You could do this first so you’ll see the templates as you lay down the tissue paper). Carefully cut out the leaves. Make smaller leaves with the scraps.
5. Tape the leaves to your window or use string to make a mobile!
Ready to get started? Download a printable copy of these craft instructions and leaf templates here!
When you’ve finished, we’d love to see what you create! Share your photos with us on Instagram using #barefootbooks!
Want to discover more about the changing seasons?
Consider our popular title Skip through the Seasons.
Whirl through the months of the year in this action packed seek-and-find book that takes young readers on an outdoor adventure as the months pass by. The detailed pictures offer a wide variety of items to spot, while also teaching the changes that happen in nature as the year turns.
It’s never too early to start taking the first steps toward literacy! Early exposure to language through reading, talking and singing has such a profound influence on children’s learning through life that the American Academy of Pediatrics now requires pediatricians to “prescribe” reading from birth.
So what types of books are best for babies? Here’s our research-based roundup:
- You’ve probably noticed that many books for babies come in this format. Why? Babies are still developing control of their fingers, and the stiff pages are easier to manipulate than paper pages. These sturdy books also withstand mouthing from babies and toddlers, which is a primary way they explore the world. (They do this because the nerve endings in their mouths are more sensitive than those in their fingers at this age!)
- Babies’ developing brains are tasked with processing a lot of information! Research shows that focusing on simple, high-contrast images allows babies’ brains to rest and helps prevent overstimulation. Babies prefer to look at black and white images, bold colors, and photographs of faces.
- Almost any book can be made interactive, but certain books build it right in to their structure! Look for books that encourage toddlers to seek, count, name objects, answer questions, and make predictions. All of these activities build attention span and critical thinking skills, which are important foundational abilities for later academic learning.
- Ever notice that baby books can be kind of….repetitive? This is intentional! Books with predictable, repeating text (often rhyming text) expose babies to the patterns of language and them to anticipate what is coming next. In addition to building vocabulary and memory skills, these books involve children as they grow by empowering them to join you in “reading” the repeated words.
- Listening to you singing rhyming and repeated text helps build your baby’s early language skills. Plus, many of these songs encourage movement and gross motor practice.
Research also shows that keeping a wide variety of books within children’s reach encourages a love for books and reading. Let them choose what you read from the earliest age, and – most of all – enjoy the time together!
Math is often a scary monster for kids — difficult and hard to understand, yet crucial in early childhood.
The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) and the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) agree that an accessible and engaging mathematics education in early childhood is a vital foundation for future mathematical understanding and learning in general.
A lack of confidence and an unwillingness to participate can develop if your child does not become comfortable with math at an early age. This can lead to them believing that they are “bad at math” and thrust them into a self-fulfilling cycle of failure. Research shows that:
- The brain is most receptive to learning math and logic between the ages of 1 and 4.
- Success in early math skills also predicts later reading achievement.
- The most critical brain development occurs in the first few years of life — it is important to capitalize on these early stages to help develop children’s learning abilities.
- Exploration and curiosity are the foundations of math, science and early learning.
As parents, how can you help engage your child in math while creating an exciting and memorable experience?
An important aspect is compounding fun reading with “hidden” math learning — your child will be having so much fun, they won’t even realize they are learning math! On average, children who are participating in hands-on activities establish a deeper understanding of the concepts and return more readily for future engagement. Tangible representations of numbers and patterns give your child something easy and fun to remember while simultaneously increasing comprehension.
A colorful and fantastical twist on The Princess and the Pea, The Real Princess: A Mathemagical Tale (North America | Europe) is a perfect addition to any at-home math encouragement. The book follows the tale of a numerically inclined royal family, and their pursuit to find equally worthy (and math oriented) princesses to marry their sons. What better way to fight off the math monster than with a brave princess?
Included in the back of the book is an inviting and relevant math activity, that sends you counting back through the book and is guaranteed to keep your child engaged. This counting activity also features an answer sheet, which can be found online: Counting Activity and Answer Key.
That’s not all! Another hands-on activity can be found online to make Princess Collage Feather Beds. This arts and crafts project can be a vibrant memento to hang up as a reminder of all that your child has accomplished and learned from A Mathemagical Tale.
What are you doing to fight the math monster?
Confidence, patience and both mental and physical balance are some of the most important skills for children to learn while they grow, and yet are also some of the most difficult to teach. How can parents even begin to explain such broad and complex concepts, while still keeping their kids engaged? Body and mind awareness can be achieved however, through one all-encompassing activity — yoga!
Experts agree that starting yoga at a young age helps to develop skills that will serve your children their entire lives. Body control and self-induced calmness can soothe tantrums, help fussy bedtimes and make kids more agile and balanced on their feet.
Yoga incorporates play, exercise and connecting with inner feelings all in one! It can teach children how to relieve stress in a healthy and positive way, while also providing a fun and interesting new activity. PBS kids has comprised a few examples of why yoga is so great for kids:
xxxx1. Yoga teaches us about our bodies. When we practice the physical postures or exercises (called asanas), we learn how to move more freely and with greater ease and awareness. These postures help our bodies become strong and flexible. Yoga is also a great way to teach children how to take care of themselves and their bodies! It teaches us to listen to our bodies by modifying or changing poses that are too hard or cause pain.
xxxx2. Yoga teaches us how to use our energy more effectively. When we practice yoga, we learn how to use the life force energy in our bodies (called prana) to feel more relaxed, focused, or motivated. It helps us breathe better too— when we breathe deeply and fully (called pranayama) we become more aware, and we can bring peacefulness or energy to our bodies.
xxxx3. Yoga teaches us how to quiet the mind. When we practice yoga, we learn how to be still. This helps us to listen with attention and make good decisions. As with all forms of exercise, a good yoga practice can mean a good night’s sleep!
xxxx4. Yoga teaches us about balance. When we practice yoga, we learn to be more aware about the need for balance in our lives. This could mean equal stretching on the left and right sides of our bodies or making sure we balance our very busy time with equal quiet time and relaxation.
Having a visual aid is a great tool to help your children easily comprehend and get excited about yoga! Check out some of our yoga oriented products to encourage the namaste lifestyle with your children.
My Daddy is a Pretzel
NAPRA Nautilus award finalist, My Daddy is a Pretzel (North America | Europe), is the perfect way to engage kids in yoga. Follow a group of children as they discuss their parent’s occupations, while comparing them to different poses. Each pose emphasizes a certain skill and gives step by step instructions on how to safely achieve them. A light-hearted look at yoga, yet one with a lasting message, My Daddy is a Pretzel is a wonderful introduction to yoga for readers of all shapes and sizes.
Inspired by the book is the unique card collection of yoga activities, Yoga Pretzels. (North America | Europe) Featuring 50 different yoga activities for kids and grownups, each card is beautifully illustrated and easy to understand. Pick randomly or follow the color coded categories for partner poses, breathing exercises, balancing and much more!
Perfect for mediating or practicing your poses, Barefoot’s Yoga CD (North America | Europe) features 14 soothing tracks composed by a diverse group of world renowned artists. Play it while your little ones read before bedtime, or while they are stretching and controlling their breathe with Yoga Pretzels!
Will You Make Time To Do Yoga with Your Kids Today?
“The book is a vehicle by which we can help people across the world.”
Chandra’s Magic Light is a beautiful and inspirational read that relays an important message to children of all ages. Set in Nepal, this heartwarming book tells the tale of two resourceful sisters who bring the safety of solar-powered light to their family’s home. The book includes useful facts about Nepal and instructions for a great DIY project: making an easy solar-powered oven!
After the devastating earthquake in central Nepal, one passionate Barefoot Books Ambassador sought to capitalize on her influence to help those affected by the disaster. With many homes lost along with the use of electricity, Chandra’s Magic Light is perhaps more relevant than ever before and Ambassador Heather Lynn Barton Ziegler immediately made the connection.
When the earthquake first hit in April, Heather was shocked along with the rest of the world at the widespread damages. A good friend of Heather’s had lived and worked as a peacekeeping ambassador in Nepal and thus the horror struck even closer to home.
An Ambassador since 2009, Heather is used to the driven, interconnected and passionate environment that Barefoot cultivates. Always looking for a way to connect current events to our books, she decided to read Chandra’s Magic Light (Europe / North America) to her daughter after the tragedy occurred. Immediately upon reading it, light bulbs (or solar-powered lights) began flashing in her mind! She jumped into action and brainstormed on how she could help those in need in Nepal by using Chandra’s Magic Light as a connection between the two cultures.
Heather recalled hearing about LuminAid, a company founded by two young women in response to the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. Upon visiting the LuminAid website, she discovered that they already had a system in place to send durable, waterproof, solar-powered lights to Nepal. Heather calculated that with her Ambassador discount, the price of one copy of Chandra’s Magic Light was equal to the price of donating one light to the Nepali Children’s Education Project (NCEP) through LuminAid. Thus Heather’s campaign to bring light to the children of Nepal began.
“The amazing synchronicity of Chandra’s Magic Light, LuminAid and the people of Nepal — it all just came together.” stated Heather in an interview. Chandra’s Magic Light illustrates how two sisters, through their own determination and entrepreneurial spirit, secured a solar light. Heather’s fundraiser has been following much of the same path. The legacy of women working together, either in books or out in the real world, is certainly a staple of this fundraiser’s success.
Under the hashtags #dispeldarkness and #givelight, Heather has been spreading word of her fundraiser and is on track to reach her goal of 100 LuminAid lights sent to the NCEP by the end of June. Heather’s campaign has been widely successful and the NCEP themselves even reached out over Facebook to express their gratitude! If you’d like to help support Heather, please check out her Facebook page: HLBZ Barefoot Books.
Now that the season has concluded both in the UK and in the US, are you already dreading Sunday nights without Downton Abbey? Then we have the perfect books for you to enjoy until the next season begins – and they’re perfect for reading with the kids!
Both The Prince’s Bedtime and The Prince’s Breakfast follow a young price who just loves saying no, whether it’s to heading to bed or eating a healthy breakfast. Every parent can relate to the endless ways the king and queen try to get the prince to behave!
But what does this have to do with Downton Abbey? Well, these humorous tales don’t just live on the page; they also spring to life on audio CDs narrated by Lord Grantham himself, Hugh Bonneville! Hugh’s melodious voice adds even more joy and humor to these tales, and having Lord Grantham lull you and your family to sleep is the perfect way to end the weekend.