Lisa Doucet Reviews Andy Jones' Barefoot Helen and the Giants

Lisa Doucet Reviews Andy Jones' Barefoot Helen and the Giants

Barefoot Helen and the Giants
(Ages 7-12)
Andy Jones, illustrated by Katie Brosnan
Running the Goat

An old couple finds a wild girl in the woods one day. She follows them home and becomes the child they had always longed for. 

They call her Helen, and while Helen eventually learns to talk and eat with utensils and even to sleep inside, she cannot be persuaded to wear shoes. When the man and woman decide to move to the city, Helen knows it is time for her to return to the wilderness. That is when her adventures truly begin as she encounters three murderous giants. 

Using her slingshot, her cunning and her courage, Helen takes on the frightful giant Bulleybummus and then returns to her beloved home in the woods. But will the story of her brave deeds get her into more trouble? Or will it mark the beginning of the next exciting chapter in Helen’s eventful life?

Although the author drew inspiration from numerous folktales from Newfoundland and all over the world, this delightful offering is uniquely his own. With its capable and clever heroine, it is a rollicking romp that offers many elements of traditional stories along with smart and unexpected variations. 

Finely told with a folksy lilt, Jones’ telling of the tale is a thrill, as is the humour and freshness of Helen’s exploits. 

Helen is not the only resourceful female protagonist herein. The princess proves equally shrewd as she devises her own plan to find the giant slayer.

UK illustrator Katie Brosnan’s lively and energetic illustrations are the perfect complement to this tale. Her playful style, featuring loose lines and roughly textured, heavy outlines, enhances the fairy-tale quality of the narrative. 

Monochromatic panels alternate with vibrantly coloured spreads to striking effect. Chock full of feisty heroines, drama and adventure and a truly satisfying ending, this is a highly entertaining offering that would also be a delight to read aloud.

Lisa Doucet is the co-manager of Woozles Children’s Bookstore in Halifax. She shares her passion for children’s and young-adult books as our young readers editor and book reviewer.

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