The Barefoot Book of Children, written by Tessa Strickland and Kate DePalma and illustrated by David Dean is, quite simply, the most powerful children's book I have ever read. (And yes, that includes To Kill a Mockingbird and The Little Prince, my two previous favorites.) And all of my children (including Atticus, when he was alive) are just fascinated by it.
Like all books we publish, The Barefoot Book of Children represents a wide variety of kids. But even by our standards, it goes above and beyond. I actually cried when I reached the two-page spread dedicated to bodies. Why? Because it was the first (and thus far, only) time I had seen a representation of Atticus's body just hanging out with all these other bodies, like "hey, we all have a body, and they're all different, and that's great!"
This book is different than any book I have ever read. There isn't really a narrative. Instead, each page has pictures of children (and their families, lives, homes, etc) and points out similarities and differences, and many ask questions. It is designed to be thought-provoking, and to prompt discussion between adults and children (and amongst children as well).
The Barefoot Book of Children teaches empathy at its most fundamental level: you have a life, and it matters. Everyone else also has a life, and their life matters too. Everyone has their own story. All stories are alike in some ways and different in others. Try to understand other people's stories. Teach them your own story. See where your stories connect, and where your personal story is going.
The Barefoot Book of Children has pages on using your senses to explore your current surroundings, homes and special places, the importance of community, families (including foster, step, military, extended, and LGBT families), bodies, clothing, hobbies and activities, work and play, food, bathing, languages, names, emotions, days (regular and special), personal treasures, religion/spirituality (not addressing specific religions by name, but alluding to them all, including atheism), being part of the world, and love.
If that sounds like a lot, it is! My kids are young, so we've never read the whole book in one sitting. In fact, we usually only read a handful of pages before being completely distracted by our conversations and the activities we want to do based on those conversations. It's officially recommended for ages 3-10, but Everett is two and has been asking to read it over and over for months now. The vocabulary in the book isn't that challenging, but the thoughts can be very deep and complex. We actually provide tools and discussion guides in order to help you and your children get the most out of The Barefoot Book of Children and to discover other ways to embrace diversity and inclusion.
And like many Barefoot Books, this one includes very detailed end-notes (a full 15 pages!!) that dive deep into the topics discussed in the books, and also pointing out really fun things about the illustrations (like one of the children on the cover is paining a picture of children playing, and those children are actually in another picture on the cover!). I've easily read this book a hundred times, and each time I do, I notice something I hadn't noticed before, or think about something in a new way.
I absolutely love this book, and I completely believe that the world would be a better place if every child and adult read and discussed The Barefoot Book of Children. Do your part to make the world a kinder place, and buy it now. And while you're at it, buy a copy for your local library, preschool, daycare, church, or elementary school. You won't regret it.