Barefoot Books is a relatively new publisher, started in 1993 by moms Nancy Traversy and Tessa Strickland. They describe their story and vision:
When you start out, no one has heard of you, and you wonder if anyone is going to listen to what you have to say. No one was publishing books quite like ours—would anyone buy them? We believed they would; we just had to find our way to parents and educators who shared our values. This is what we care about: first, we're convinced that it's never too early to introduce children to other cultures. We believe too that children can appreciate high-quality art, and enjoy the music as well as the meaning of language from a very early age.
I love books that feature different cultures, and Barefoot Books does this well. My first-grader loves three "travel" books: We're Sailing to Galapagos, We All Went on Safari, and We're Sailing Down the Nile. First of all, the books are gorgeous. The illustrations are bright and colorful without being too chaotic and cluttered. Each book gives geographical and cultural details in fun, sing-song verses.
We're Sailing to Galapagos: A Week in the Pacific, is our favorite. The rhyming text introduced the wildlife of the Galapagos Islands, from albatrosses to lava crabs. Duncan loves the repeated chorus:
This book made me want to do a unit study on the Galapagos! The last several pages of the book give more detail about the Islands and its animal inhabitants.
"We're sailing to Galapagos, Galapagos, Galapagos,
We're sailing to Galapagos. I wonder who we'll see."
We All Went on Safari: A Counting Journey Through Tanzania, is beautiful counting/language/ culture/wildlife book. A group of Maasai people journey over Tanzanian grasslands and past acacia trees, counting various African animals--in both English and Swahili. Like the Galapagos book, this one devotes several pages at the end to information about the Maasai people, the Swahili language, and facts about Tanzania. This would be a great supplement to any study of African countries.
We're Sailing Down the Nile: A Journey Through Egypt is the least engaging of the three for us. Somehow the rhythm doesn't flow as well as the other two, and the illustrations weren't as engaging. I guess also, there is so much great material out there already about Egypt but not much about Tanzania and the Galapagos, so the first two books really stood out for me.
I think Barefoot Books will be a solid contender in the children's book market. The books are reminiscent of Usborne Books but with more of a cultural rather than historical focus--and the illustrations are more vibrant. I see on their site that, like Usborne, one can run a home-based business by selling Barefoot Books. I used to sell Usborne in this way and accumulated a wonderful library; if my children were younger, I'd consider selling Barefoot! They also have an affiliate program like Amazon. Don't be surprised if you see an affiliate button on my blog in a few days!