Publisher Profile: Barefoot Books
The CBC asks Rachel Sammons, Trade Marketing Associate, questions about the publisher.
How did your publishing house start out?
Co-founders Nancy Traversy and Tessa Strickland met in London back in 1992 when they both had small children. Nancy was a Canadian living in England with a background in finance, small business, and design. Tessa worked in adult publishing at Random House and Penguin. They were both drawn to the idea of starting a little business making beautiful books that introduced children to wonderful stories and art from all over the world. When Nancy’s eldest daughter was only three weeks old, the two women founded Barefoot Books, an independent publisher committed to creating beautiful books that celebrate the formative role of art and storytelling in children’s lives.
What is your publishing house most known for?
From the very beginning, Barefoot’s books have represented a vast array of cultures and perspectives while also providing children of all backgrounds a mirror of their own experiences. Today, we’ve grown into a vibrant and diverse community focused on sharing books and gifts that inspire children to be compassionate, creative, and curious global citizens. We pride ourselves on our core tenets: Early Learning & Literacy, Social-Emotional Learning, Diversity & Inclusion, Global Awareness & Sustainability, STEAM and Wellness.
Which genres does your house prefer to publish?
We love activity decks that facilitate interactive learning, board books to encourage early literacy, heartwarming picture books that teach social-emotional lessons, STEM-y nonfiction books that instill sustainable values, global stories to help raise global citizens, and much more! We also believe it’s important to share stories about more sensitive topics. Some of our books depict children affected by war, displacement, anxiety, climate change, and other issues that young people face today.
What are some of your house’s publishing priorities over the next few years?
We want to continue creating diverse and inclusive children’s literature despite the ongoing book bans we’re seeing today. We won’t shy away from stories that show LGBTQ+ characters, BIPOC, and multiethnic families, communities coming together to protest injustice, or any other forms of representation that are currently being challenged in libraries and schools across the country. On the company level, we’re also working towards becoming a much more eco-conscious publisher. We support environmental management and social accountability standards such as ISO 14001, SMETA, and the ICTI Ethical Toy Program (these promote manufacturing efficiency, good working conditions, worker health and safety, fair remuneration, and the prohibition of child and forced labor). In 2021, we started a process to measure and offset the carbon emissions generated in the process of making our books. From the manufacture and delivery of raw materials, through printing and then transport by sea, rail, and road to our warehouses, we’re collecting data from our suppliers and then calculating the amount of carbon that has been generated by this activity. This will help inform our eco-conscious efforts as a company going forward.
Which title has your house recently rallied behind?
Too many to count!
As a small, independent publisher, it is very important that we highlight all of the stories we create each season . . . but the one that stands out to me right now is Food for the Future, written by Mia Wenjen and illustrated by Robert Sae-Heng. This picture book takes kids on a tour of sustainable farming innovations across the globe! The author, Mia, runs the nonprofit Multicultural Children’s Book Day and blogs on parenting, education, and children’s books at PragmaticMom.com. She’s passionate about instilling sustainable values in young people, and got to present on the topic at the 2023 ALA Conference’s Diversity in Publishing Stage! Food for the Future is such a critical book right now as it not only inspires STEAM values but it also examines farming efforts from a global perspective (not just America-focused). And it’s received loads of praise! It’s a Junior Library Guild Gold Seal Selection, and it received a starred review from The School Library Journal, who called it, “an exciting overview of traditional and innovative farming techniques that will warrant repeated reading, for casual browsing or classroom use.” We couldn’t agree more!
Which title does your house feel deserved more love than it got?
Our picture book The Book Tree, was originally published in 2018, however, in light of the current climate around book banning, we feel that it deserves extra love and attention today! The story shows what happens when a mayor decides that books are dangerous and destroys all books in town. Thanks to a young protagonist’s imagination and perseverance, the mayor finds that suppressing stories cannot stop them from blossoming more beautifully than ever. This gorgeously illustrated book reinforces the importance of storytelling and shows how censorship can sap creativity and culture. Its happy ending is one that I hope our society experiences in real life in regard to book banning.
Name a few of your favorite backlist titles that people should check out.
Don’t mind if we do!
Whatever Comes Tomorrow (written by Rebecca Gardyn Levington and illustrated by Mariona Cabassa) is a lyrical poem about managing worries and anxiety, and it’s perfect for a bedtime read-aloud with the family.
The Perfect Sushi (written by Emily Satoko Seo and illustrated by Mique Moriuchi) centers on a perfectionist young girl who learns that kokoro (heart) is the key ingredient to the perfect present.
Hana’s Hundreds of Hijabs (written by Razeena Omar Gutta and illustrated by Manal Mirza) is a critically acclaimed picture book that shows a young Muslim girl who has to figure out a solution to her overflowing collection of hijabs and accessories.
Nour’s Secret Library (written by Wafa’ Tarnowska and illustrated by Vali Mintzi) is an award-winning picture book based on a true story about children who create an underground library when their Syrian city is plagued with bombings.
Oh! And there’s our adorable Our World series, which consists of global board books that take babies and toddlers through daily life in countries around the world. We’re super excited about those as well!
Thank you, Barefoot Books!