A new chapter: Children's bookshops come alive

By Danielle Wright

Danielle Wright visits independent children's booksellers before the New Zealand Post Children's Book Awards' Festival, starting on Monday.

Maria at Next Page Please bookstore in Takapuna reads to a captivated audience. Photo / Sarah Ivey
Maria at Next Page Please bookstore in Takapuna reads to a captivated audience. Photo / Sarah Ivey

If a book is worth reading, it's worth owning. There's a certain pleasure you get from looking at a book on your shelf that you've enjoyed, especially one you've had since you were a child, possibly to pass on to your own children or grandchildren.

And although libraries are magical places in which to create a love of reading, children thrive in the ownership of books and cherish the shops that sell them.

As Jabberwocky's Sean Kelly says: "A children's bookshop is up there with a toy shop or sweet shop in a child's mind - everything else is just about being dragged around from shop to shop by parents: a children's bookshop is exciting."

Here are some of our best independent children's bookshops to support during the NZ Post Children's Book Awards and Festival, from May 7-15:

Jabberwocky Children's Bookshop
598 Remuera Rd, Remuera.

Ph 09 524 4781

As I enter Jabberwocky, a monkey holding a banana chatters the hour from a cuckoo clock behind the counter and I take a seat next to a fireplace covered in silver tinsel with Ug, Raymond Briggs' "boy genius of the stone age", peeking out from it like Santa Claus.

Upstairs is a room as big as the one below but for children who can read independently. Here there's a comfortable sofa lined up against the window and a room devoted to puzzles and games.

And even though it's in Remuera, it's not the slightest bit uptight. "If you want children to love books then they have to touch them. If something gets damaged, that's part of it," says Kelly, endearingly kid-focused in his approach.

Next Page, Please!
Shop 1, 347 Lake Rd, Takapuna. Ph 09 486 2453

Maria Elston from Next Page Please! has created a bookshop where staff always have just the right book and treat children as Very Important People.

The shop is set out so all the book jackets are displayed, even on the older fiction, and a comfortable sofa beckons at the back of the store. One customer is knitting a jumper for Huey, a character in Oliver Jeffers' new book The Hueys in the New Sweater.

"Oliver Jeffers is a big attraction at the NZ Post Children's Book Award Festival," explains Elston, who is passionate about children's books because: "They light up a child's imagination and create a world of amazement for anyone lucky enough to be invited in."

The Dorothy Butler Children's
Bookshop1 Jervois Rd, Ponsonby. Ph 09 376 7283.

This much-loved Ponsonby children's bookshop is named after Dorothy Butler, a teacher and reading specialist, bookseller and children's author. Built on split levels, it boasts a gated play area for the very young, a Thomas the Tank Engine play table and a huge selection of books and toys, including costumes. Office manager Mary Sangster is excited about the upcoming awards. "The Montanas used to be the literary awards with the glitzy awards show, but now, the children's book awards are up there with as much excitement and glamour," she says. Her award favourites include Stomp! by Ruth Paul in the picture book category and The Bridge by Jane Higgins in Young Adult Fiction category.

INDEPENDENT BOOKSTORES WITH GOOD CHILDREN'S SECTIONS:

Good independent bookstores for adults should all have dedicated children's areas - some have signs with strictly no touching policies and others encourage little hands to explore. Here are a few with separate rooms for children's books:

Time Out
432 Mt Eden Rd, Mt Eden Village. Ph 09 630 3331.

Keep walking right to the end of the shop and you'll find a sweet children's book den, filled to the brim with, as manager Jenna Todd says, "something a little bit different." There's a whole section dedicated to sophisticated picture books, what Todd calls them: "The slightly weird picture books." For the first time this year, a Young Adult graphic novel, Shaolin Burning by Ant Sang, is a finalist in the picture book category, which is generally dominated by books for the very young. Assistant manager Louisa Kasza says its nomination has boosted sales already, although admits that, "series are our bread and butter".

Time Out also has a large range of pop-up children's books that come to life once a year around Guy Fawkes in an explosion of paper in the window display.

Poppies Books
Village Green, 415 Remuera Rd, Remuera. Ph 09 524 4001.

Owner Elise Harper was once a children's book librarian, so her children's book section is dear to her heart. "I adore it," she tells me.

Set in part of the old Remuera fire station and stables, Poppies is across the village green with a country home feel to it. The children's room is stocked with books handpicked by Harper.

"Our collection has a lot of depth and we don't stock just the latest titles. We have a strong board book section and Retro Reads such as Tikki Tikki Tembo and The Red Balloon - ones parents used to read as children," says Harper.

CHILDREN'S BOOKSHOPS OUTSIDE AUCKLAND:

Visit the local library on your travels and ask about the children's bookshops and authors in the area. A book by a local author, bought on holiday, will provide great memories for the kids.

Storytime
The Strand on Vine, Whangarei. Ph 09 438 4406.

After 30 years in business, Storytime is up for sale for any budding booksellers. Its life began when five young mums created the business to "make a difference to their community." Owner Annemarie Florian was a judge for the New Zealand Post Children's Book Awards this year and says, "I feel buoyed by the quality of children's books we are still managing to produce in this country - after all, our market is small."

The Storyteller
109 Broadway, Matamata. Ph 07 888 7040.

Situated in Matamata (the home of Hobbiton), there is naturally a focus on the Lord of the Rings series and associated books and a display of NZ children's picture book titles at the entrance is a big drawcard for children and tourists.

Festival events

The New Zealand Post Book Awards Festival is community-based through schools and
libraries and an interactive map of events around the country is online.

Maria Gill, author of New Zealand Hall of Fame, nominated in the non-fiction section, says: "It's very uplifting to know that people in the industry rate your book. Other benefits are that schools and libraries get the opportunity to have an author or illustrator visit their area for free.''

Some highlights include:

* Tiptoe through time with favourite stories from New Zealand Post finalists at Katikati Library on May 10, 10am-10.30am. A free event for children under 7.

* Visit a playgroup session in Waikato showcasing the books nominated, a starlight storytime or a Lit Quiz, as well as author events by Adele Broadbent (writer of Just Jack).

* Hear special storytimes planned across Auckland with nominated illustrators and authors, such as the Pyjama-rama Party at Takapuna Library, where children dress up in pyjamas, have their faces painted, decorate their own cat in pyjamas, show their style at the crazy bed hair salon and listen to a special storytime.

* Have a storytime character hunt in Northland, where children search for book characters or tour a New Zealand Post Centre in Whangarei to track the journey of a letter.

- NZ Herald

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