Barefoot Skateboarders

Barefoot Skateboarders

A review of Barefoot Skateboarders by Rina Singh

Published on July 4, 2024

Set in Janwaar, a village in northern India, Barefoot Skateboarders tells the true story of how sport can help bridge caste and gender divides. 

Barefoot Skateboarders
Rina Singh
Illustrated by Sophie Casson

Orca Book Publishers
$21.95
cloth
32pp
9781459838536

The plain text, suited for beginner to intermediate readers, follows Ramkesh, a young boy who is of the Adivasi Indigenous group, living in a mud home in Janwaar. Adivasis like Ramkesh don’t often interact with their neighbours, who belong to the Yadav caste and live in brick homes. Yadavs never play with Adivasis, Ramkesh reports. Girls from both groups are also often excluded from activities. 

That is until one day a skatepark is built in Janwaar. At first, Ramkesh is skeptical of the new addition to his village: “What are they building? Another school? A hospital? With pointless hills and ramps, the structure looks like a waste of concrete!” But soon he finds himself enraptured by this new sport, and despite not having any shoes, learns to skateboard together with the other children of the village, Yadavs and girls included. “The children feel free when they are on the skateboards. Like Ramkesh, they all want wings to fly.”

Barefoot Skateboarders details Ramkesh’s travels to the UK and Germany, where he learns more about skateboarding, together with two other kids from Janwaar, Arun and Asha. But while the view from the plane is amazing, Ramkesh only has eyes for his new shoes! 

The potential of children to become changemakers even in the most stratified societies is the driving message of Barefoot Skateboarders, and Sophie Casson’s playful illustrations bring Ramkesh’s tentative first steps, and high-flying ollies, into full colour.mRb

Meaghan Thurston is a Montreal-based arts and science writer, co-editor of the anthology With the World to Choose From: Seven Decades of the Beatty Lecture at McGill University, and mother to two budding readers.

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