Friday, 8 March 2013

The Barefoot Book of Mother & Daughter tales

Neither my Mum nor Grandma used to read any bedtime stories to me as a child, but I remember listening to the wonderful fairy tales retold without any book props. Telling a good story is not about entertainment only, this is the way the local culture and history passes from generation to generation.
Most of the stories in The Barefoot Book of Mother & Daughter Tales originate in this tradition of storytelling. These tales have been passed from mother to child for many centuries, and have been recorded as retold by nameless authors. These stories appear in many versions, and it is amazing how the same plots and story lines move within and beyond the national boundaries.

This beautiful edition is another gem in the already shining treasury of books from Barefoot Books. It comes as a collection of stories which deal with the themes of mother-daughter relationships: "These stories are about mothers, grandmothers, stepmothers, godmothers, foster-mothers and mothers-in-law as they weave their mysterious relationships with their maturing daughters". This collection has been retold by Josephine Evetts-Secker.

You will find the traditional stories from Greece, Russia, Germany, Japan, Norway and other countries.
I was pleased to find two of the Russian stories. One is Vasilisa the Beautiful. A fairy tale which kept me entertained and scared at the same time when I was a child. Another familar story from my childhood is Snowflake (though this version is Slavonic, as there are so many different variations across the Slavic countries). The Russian name for Snowflake is Snegurochka (lit. snow girl or snow maiden). I have always found this story poignant: a couple who are desperate to become parents, whose happiness feels empty because they have no children. They build a snow child who comes to life. Their happiness is complete, only to be snatched away by the cruel twist of fate, when their beloved child melted jumping over the bonfire. The fragile and vulnerable snow child is a symbol of the brevity of life.
The Turkish tale Katanya is another story of a woman's longing for a child. The little girl has miraculously appeared from the ripe date.

There are vulnerable heroines, there are strong characters like Vasilisa, there is a whole spectrum of women's personalities.

The book is beautifully illustrated by Helen Cann. Her style of painting is distinct and original, the illustrations are reminiscent of the multi-coloured blocks in patchworks, bright and intricate.

If you enjoy listening to the stories, this book comes with two discs. All the stories are narrated by Juliet Stevenson. A real treat!

Happy International Women's Day to all my blog readers who are daughters, Mums, sisters and grandmothers!

P.S. I received this book for the purposes of reviewing. All opinions are mine.


  1. I always love the timeless quality of Barefoot Books, it looks beautiful

  2. This sounded lovely! Have added it to Lara's wish list :-)

  3. I'm sure Lara will love this book, Leta, when she's a bit older.
    Cheryl, totally agree with you.