This post is presented in collaboration with Sarah Warrington, Independent Barefoot Books Ambassador. Sarah provided copies of some of these books for us to review, and some we had already purchased. She is generously donating two free books to one lucky winner; enter by visiting The Happy Hive on Facebook! Links in this article take you to Sarah's ambassador page.
If you live on a homestead with kids, and you're anything like us, you get kind of excited when you see a book that will help your kids relate to your lifestyle. Whether you are an urban homesteader with a small garden and a few chickens or a rural homesteader who provides most of your own food, there is something about seeing something you can relate to in a children's book that touches on that desire to create a purposeful kind of life for yourself and your family.
When my friend Sarah started selling books through Barefoot Books, I was excited to ask her if there were any in the collection that would speak to a homesteading lifestyle. Little did I know that I would find a treasure trove of books that were not only relevant, but surprisingly accurate, and refreshingly different. I bought my kids two garden-related books for Christmas, then turned to Sarah to ask what more we could dig up.
The cool thing about Barefoot Books is that their whole mission is to provide books for children that are "diverse, inclusive, and inspiring." They try to use reading to introduce kids to other cultures while also helping them to find social connections to what they are reading. That means you'll find a young girl raising chickens instead of old Farmer MacDonald, and you'll find traditional tales from Russia re-told for a young audience. So, not only will your children find something to which they can relate, they might also be introduced to something new.
The four books we chose to share for this article demonstrate those values in a way this is unobtrusive but effective, and great for little ones. Keep in mind that this is just a sample of the many gardening and animal-related books you'll find in the collection!
Who's in the Garden (By Phillis Gershator and Jill McDonald)
This colorful board book for little ones is like reading a beautiful quilt - the vibrant scenes are artistic and textured and provide all sorts of nooks and crannies to catch your eye. It also has those classic peek-a-boo windows that allow your child to interact with the book by naming who they see next. But what parents will love about reading this book is how realistic it is about the critters who are visiting the garden (some desired, some not). I laugh every time I read about the bunny coming to visit, and when my four year old says, "no bunny, don't eat our carrots!" Or when we read about the bees visiting the garden and start talking about what the bees are doing jumping from flower to flower. The visions of a home with laundry hanging on the line, gardens growing in close proximity to the house, and moles digging in the soil will feel totally familiar to homesteaders and gardeners of all sorts.
Millie's Chickens (By Brenda Williams and Valeria Cis)
This book about a young girl who takes care of her chickens is a great example of how Barefoot Books manages to make their stories relevant to real-life families. Millie isn't just raising chickens in a coop, she's raising a Silkie, a Rhode Island Red, and a Cream Legbar (and the breeds are more fully described in the back of the book). The chickens are laying multi-colored eggs and being fed from a hopper, filled with grit to strengthen their shells. And the authors pull off this level of accuracy without losing a steady rhythmic beat that will please parents and children alike. You can just read the story to younger kids, or your older kids can read the story and then all of the information at the back of the book about raising chickens, right down to an anatomy lesson. The illustrations are beautiful and pretty accurate so if your kids do raise chickens they might recognize some from their flock. Even if you don't raise chickens, this is also a great book to show kids about where eggs come from and what it means to take good care of animals.
The Beeman (By Laurie Krebs and Valeria Cis)
As beekeepers we were excited to see this book on the list. Written from the perspective of a young boy who's grandfather is known locally as the beeman (with a family of color, incidentally but importantly), it smoothly combines real beekeeping terminology with a heartwarming story about a boy who is proud of his grandpa. It's clear that they consulted real scientists to present accurate information but also talented writers who can weave that information into a book that is easily understood by a child as young as four. Not all children will immediately pick out the queen in a busy picture full of "drone bees with big bulging eyes" (OK, that was a proud mama moment) but after reading the book a few times they will start to get used to this terminology that I didn't learn until about our third year of beekeeping (and yes, the back of this book also provides great explanations of beekeeping terms). Cis again provides beautiful and accurate illustrations that will impress anyone who knows anything about beekeeping, and provide accurate information for those who are less familiar.
The Gigantic Turnip (By Stellah Blackstone and Niamh Sharkey, based on a story by Aleksei Tolstoy)
Originally written down by Tolstoy in a book of Russian Folk tales in the 1800's, this is the story of an old man and an old woman who plant a garden full of vegetables and discover a giant turnip that is impossible to pull from the ground. They enlist the help of all of their barnyard friends, only to discover that the key moment of success will come from the most unlikely helper. This beautifully re-told rendition is also illustrated in a way that just seems to match the story and its roots (no pun intended!) perfectly. It is artistic, traditional, and fun all at the same time. And of course, the old man and the old woman share the bounty of their garden with everyone who helped, a lesson that speaks to every homesteader who is part of a community that helps make things happen. As a fun bonus, Barefoot Books has included a CD with the story read aloud.
We never write a sponsored post that we don't feel good about recommending, and this post truly fits that standard. These are beautiful, thoughtful, and realistic books that we are proud to have in our collection, and we hope that you will consider checking them out!