Bart Bigfoot and The Red Fox
By Jo Barnes
Illustrated by David Ewart
By BILL DUNCAN
If there was one incentive for Jo Barnes of Sutherlin to write a children’s book, it came in the form of eight grandchildren and seven great grandchildren. It is her legacy to her children and their children and their children’s children.
And because Sasquatch, colloquially known as Bigfoot, is a popular Northwest legend it seemed a natural character for a children’s book. Her first venture into this storytelling has led Barnes to plan a series of books featuring Bart and his Bigfoot family.
She credits her two children for ecouraging her to write the books, especially her daughter, Cathy Munsell of Phoenix, Ariz., the mother of six children, for the support over the years she has devoted to writing the book. "She never let me give up and she continually gave me ideas for more stories." Her son, Eric Cunningham of Sutherlin, also cheered her on through the many trials of publishing.
"Bigfoot has always been known to live in the deepest part of the forest," she writes in her reader’s introduction. "He has lived off the land and not bothered anyone."
Bart is part of a Bigfoot family that settled in the valley, built homes, barns and farmed the land just like the settlers. In this story, Barnes has Bart raising chickens until Red Fox sneaked into the hen house. The squaking of the hens awoke Bart and he went out to scare Red Fox away.
Red Fox hid in the thicket of blackberries and got stuck with the sharp thorns and began to lick his wounds only to discover the delicious taste of the blackberries that he dripped their juice on to him. Bart makes peace with Red Fox and invites him to share a blackberry pie he has baked. Red Fox decides blackberries taste better than chicken and agrees to come to work for Bart on the farm and "…this was the beginning of a long friendship and many good meals together."
Barnes includes a Blackberry Pie recipe in her book. She also concludes with questions for children who might read about Bart’s adventures, or hear the story read to them. For example, she asks: "Do you believe Bigfoot really lives somewhere in the forest?"
"Bart Bigfoot and The Red Fox," is the first in a series of Bigfoot and his friends books. The next book in production is "Bart Bigfoot Helps Green Snake."
The book is greatly enhanced by the imagination of illustrator David Ewart, a nationally acclaimed artist who said: "One of the most precious times in a child’s life is that magic age from birth to six. They smile often. They learn rapidly and their imigination knows no bounds."
Barnes’ book is the third book Ewart. who lives in Southern Oregon, has illustrated completely, although his illustrations have been on many children book covers.
Barnes said when she worked for a number of years as a librarian she realized how important children’s books were and she began thinking about writing them herself and thought about all the different animals she could use as characters. But living in the Northwest she wondered why there was no book about Bigfoot. Thus, Bart Bigfoot was born in her mind.
Her grandchildren and great grandchildren, she said, are the best editors for the story content. Barnes will be better known for her years of involvement with the Sutherlin Blackberry festival and again this year she is chairperson for the Chili Cookoff at the festival scheduled for August 15 through August l7 in Sutherlin. Barnes is also involved in the Coat and Blanket Project of the Sutherlin Lioness Club that collects coats and blankets during the fall for those in need.
On Saturday, July 19, Barnes will be at a book signing from 1 to 4 p.m. at Norton’s Book Store in the Roseburg Valley Mall.
(Bill Duncan writes book reviews for Currents as well as edits The Senior Times and writes a weekly column on the Opinion page every Thursday.)