________________ CM . . . . Volume XXI Number 9 . . . . October 31, 2014


Adventures with Barefoot Critters: An ABC Book.

Teagan White.
Toronto, ON: Tundra Books, 2014.
32 pp., hardcover & epub, $19.99 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-77049-624-8 (hc.), ISBN 978-1-77049-626-2 (epub).

Subject Headings:
English language-Alphabet-Juvenile literature.
Alphabet books.
Animals-Pictorial works-Juvenile literature.
Seasons-Pictorial works-Juvenile literature.

Preschool-grade 1 / Ages 3-6.

Review by Stacey Matson.

***1/2 /4


In January we clean the attic and try on old clothes.
And we build a bridge out of branches over the river that froze.

In February we catch colds and can’t go out to play.
But when we feel better, we dance all day.



Adventures with Barefoot Critters is an alphabet book featuring a gang of animal characters exploring the world. A fox, a squirrel, a triceratops and other creatures take the reader from January through to December, exploring both inside the house and the wild outdoors in all seasons. Along the way, the alphabet is a subtle guide to their adventures.

     This is Teagan White’s first picture book, but the illustration style is somehow both new and warmly recognizable. The whimsical nature of the book begins with a parade of our five main creatures across a double spread page, introducing themselves without text before the copyright and dedication pages. This feeling of whimsy continues through to the end, with beautifully printed end papers, and even a free poster featuring the animals on the inside of the dust jacket. The book features no-bleed illustrations on a white background, made using watercolour and gouache (a more opaque watercolour paint). White’s use of detail makes it easy to linger and enjoy each illustration without each page being too busy or distracting. None of the illustrations are framed, giving the sense that each adventure leads into the next. Each page shows at least two characters interacting, which gives life and action to their adventures, and White also mixes up the pairings enough to make every character matter. The addition of a triceratops in the mix of woodland animals made me smile, and I appreciated how its presence added more magic to the story.

     White’s use of colour is particularly lovely. Overall, the colours are warm, using mostly brown tones and soft washes. However, White cleverly uses slow colour shifts to indicate change in the seasons and emphasizes this by the letter block marking our place in the alphabet. Winter begins with blue being a dominant colour on the page. As winter thaws, the colours slowly evolve from blue to green, and then to yellow, red and finally purple as winter descends again.

     The text is limited to a single sentence, one part of a rhyming couplet, per page. It is simple and effective in conveying the gist of each adventure and matches well with its complementary illustration. Each page announces its host alphabet letter before the sentence, and the corresponding words are highlighted using different colours in the text. The alphabet is leading these adventures, but not in a way that is overbearing. None of the letter words seem forced or out of place in the text, even the difficult “x” and “z”. However, the rhyme scheme is extremely uneven at times, and I had a hard time reading it aloud and finding the measure of each sentence.

     If it wasn’t a blasphemous thing to do to a book, I would cut Adventures with Barefoot Critters apart and frame its pages as each page is lovely to gaze at all on its own.

Highly Recommended.

Stacey Matson is a writer living in Vancouver, BC. She recently finished her MA in children’s literature at the University of British Columbia and her first children’s novel, A Year in the Life of a Total and Complete Genius came out in September 2014.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.

CM Home | Next Review | Table of Contents for This Issue - October 31, 2014 | Back Issues | Search | CM Archive | Profiles Archive