Enter Barefoot Books in Oxford's Summertown and you step into a magical children's fairytale. The vibrant colours, tents, and buzz of excited children will draw you through the store. A wide range of children's books greet you, each one tempting with hand puppets snuggled up beside them on the shelves.
Barefoot Books is an independent publisher and bookstore. Started by two mums back in the early 1990's, the business has grown with a global reach. Once you have a look at their books you'll understand why. Driven by their five core values, "Imagine, Explore, Create, Connect and Give Back", their books combine both illustrations to inspire and stories that will develop a well rounded child. It's not surprising that they have won too many awards to describe them all in just this article.
Barefoot Books have also kept up with the age of technology. On my last visit, I found myself drawn into their World Atlas that was shortlisted for the Junior Design Awards 2012. I then found out that it has been an Apple App of the week for the iPad.
If that's not enough to tempt you in, then midway down the store is the Storyteller's Cafe. There are lots of imaginative favourites for children, like the Humpty Dumpty Two Eggs & Soldiers, and grownups don't have to compromise as you often do in a family friendly restaurant; the salmon fishcake with hollandaise sauce sounded very appealing. If you just want to relax with tea and cake there are lots of choices and the portions are generous. My pot of loose leaf Early Grey tea from Suki was enough for over 2 huge mugs.
The fantastic food and choice is perhaps not surprising when you discover that it's developed by two brothers, Vladimir and Jose Niza, who have trained under the famous Raymond Blanc at the Michelin starred Manoir Aux Quat Seasons.
It's not just my two year old and I who have been enchanted by Barefoot Books. Junior Magazine recently awarded the Storyteller's Cafe with 'Best Family Restaurant 2012'.
Tucked down at the end is the Storyteller's Chair, bringing alive the ancient art of storytelling. Twice a day at 11am and 4pm, stories are read with all the wonder they deserve and the kids go quiet as they cluster around entralled. It's lovely to see their faces light up and a great way to foster a love of reading from an early age.
There are lots of creative activities run throughout the day in their upstairs studios such as arts and crafts, music time, and even post natal pilates for mums. Check their website for details (some are free and some are charged).