Tessa Strickland

Tessa Strickland

Tessa Strickland is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Barefoot Books. In and around her professional responsibilities, she writes (sometimes as Stella Blackstone), reads and goes travelling. She also loves to dream and draw and drink wine with good friends and dig in her garden. She has two sons and a daughter, all in their twenties. Her home is in rural Somerset, which is also where she most likes to write. So these posts come from her garden bench in summer, and from her fireside in winter.

This time last year, I was present-hunting in Exmouth Market, London, when I came across an enchanting selection of hand-woven cotton toys. When I noticed that they had been produced by a company called Barefoot Ceylon, I was even more intrigued. I bought two of the animals as Christmas gifts for Nancy and her husband Marty.

It is always fascinating to follow the journeys books make once they have come into the world. One thing you can guarantee in advance is that their journeys will be unpredictable.

No story I heard last week has touched me as much as this one. It comes from a girlfriend, Annabel Huxley, who on Thursday evening ran a debate at the Zoological Society of London on the animals we cannot survive without. Here is the story, with thanks to Annabel for sharing.

I am a fan of audio books. When my children were small, the voice of Sir Michael Hordern narrating The Chronicles of Narnia transformed long car journeys, keeping all of us spellbound. So did the voice of Hugh Lupton narrating Tales of Wisdom and Wonder and, later, The Adventures of Odysseus. This weekend, my driving was made infinitely more pleasurable by having Sophie Thompson’s narration of Emma to hold my attention.  And it came as no surprise recently when a friend who reads The Economist told me that the audio version of this newspaper has become far more popular than the print edition.

I have always been fascinated by matrioshka – the traditional Russian dolls within dolls which are often so exquisitely decorated. Old-time Barefooters will remember a year when we were approached by two matrioshka manufacturers in the same season. One of them made a magnificent ‘Gigantic Turnip’ matrioshka, with a different animal depicted on each doll; the other made a ‘Babushka’ one. It goes without saying that these two are now my favourite matrioshka!

A big thank you to everyone who responded to my recent blogpost on homework. I spent last week ill in bed with flue and during this time I was very interested to hear that Francois Holland, President of France, has just put a ban on homework. His argument is that ‘an education program is, by definition, a societal program. Work should be done at school, rather than at home.’

As I drove home to Somerset from Oxford last Friday, there was a lively debate on the radio about the merits and demerits of assigning homework to children at infant school.

Every year, the museum at Concord, Massachusetts hosts a Family Trees exhibition. Each of the trees is thematically decorated; this year, we have invited French illustrator Sophie Fatus to decorate the Barefoot Books tree.


This post celebrates the safe arrival into the world on Thursday 27 September of Seth and Jasper. These twin baby boys are the first grandchildren of Kathryn White, creator of our imaginative young heroine Ruby (as in Ruby’s School Walk and Ruby’s Sleepover), so I like to think I can appropriate them as Barefoot Babies.

This summer, I stayed with a good friend who has educated both of her daughters at a local Waldorf school. Somehow or other, we found ourselves talking about the challenge of screens and mobile devices in family life and how this affects intimacy between parents and children. I found myself remembering the early body language of a little girl whose Mum was more often than not on her mobile phone while she was going about her day, head and neck tilted towards her right shoulder. When she started walking independently, her daughter mimicked this body language, tilting her own head and neck over to the right and hunching up her shoulder. Happily, her Mum realised the error of her ways and took more care about when she used her phone and how.