Barefoot Bea by Heather Neilly
Bea hates wearing shoes. She sniffs her nose at a sandal, looks aghast at a gumboot, and won’t suffer a sneaker. But when her parents decide to take radical action, their dynamic daughter comes up with an ingenious solution.
This is the hilarious tale of Barefoot Bea, who believes bare feet are best when it comes to playing tag, climbing trees, and cartwheeling.
The story centres around the family visiting the shoe shop in order to finally find Bea a pair of shoes that she feels comfortable in. The twist at the end of the book was a big surprise. The unexpected ending had our little readers in stitches of laughter.
Author Heather Neilly uses a fun rhyming text that makes the story great for reading aloud. There’s also some fantastic words used within the story – impatience, trickled, and fluster to choose a few.
The book also served as a great jumping off point for a range of discussions. Health and safety implications as well as the purpose of different shoes were explored after reading the book. A quick Google search also revealed there is a British woman called Bea who stopped wearing shoes in 2010 after suffering from injuries while running. While there is nothing to suggest that this book is based on the real Bea, it too made for interesting conversations and questions.
The designer of the book has made great use of italics, bold and capital letters in the text, all interesting concepts for beginner readers to explore.
Illustrator Ruth de Vos uses bright and bold pictures to tell the story. The double page spread of a cartwheeling sequence is especially gorgeous – with a simple colour palette, bold lines and Bea’s fun expressions. De Vos has a knack for expressions and each character is full of personality.
The endpapers of the book are also very fun, with a range of shoes that can be used as prompts to further questioning.
Bea as a character is a delight. She is an active and adventurous female character that doesn’t conform to gender stereotypes. The story also has strong themes of individuality and independence, with the underlying message to stay true to yourself.
Barefoot Bea is a quirky and unique read that will appeal to children of every age.
Reviewer: Rebekah Fraser
Yellow Brick Books