This week's Bookshop Blurbs are from Dr Laura Ovenden, teacher, English lead, reviewer for Just Imagine, OU/UKLA Reading Group leader and Reading for Pleasure advocate. Not only has she talked about her favourite current bookshops, she's also given an insight into the bookshops that were important to her as a child. A huge thank you to Laura for finding the time to put this together. If you'd like to write about your favourite independent children's bookshops, please get in touch.
I love the smell of new and secondhand bookshops and libraries. Growing up, Hendon Library in north London was like walking into a cathedral - a sanctuary from the traffic and bustle of The Burroughs outside.
My favourite secondhand bookshop was the Oxfam bookshop in St Ives and I was probably a bit abrupt on our last visit when I found it had been replaced with a different store, “But I don’t want kitchenware; I want Puffin paperbacks!”
When in London my local independent bookshop was Nomads on the Fulham Rd, which always seemed to welcome families and had a cavernous children’s section at the back with sofas and space for pushchairs. It was an oasis during maternity leave and went up a notch for sleep-deprived parents when a coffee shop opened inside it too. The travel book collection at Nomads was also in a league of its own, making me add to my list of countries to explore.
In terms of independent bookshops, here in the Calder Valley we have The Bookcase in Hebden Bridge, which represents the pinnacle of resilience. Devastated by the floods we’ve had in recent years they have bounced back. There is a great clip of how the beautiful shop frontage doubles as a floodgate when needed: twitter.com/bbclooknorth/status/1228396992944054272. Although quite a small bookshop, it has a wonderfully curated children’s section. It also organises local author events and I spent a magical evening drinking mulled wine and hearing Horatio Clare talk abut his book The Light in the Dark.
The Book Corner
The more recently opened sister shop The Book Corner in Halifax offers even more space and a wider range of books. It occupies a corner of the magnificent Georgian Piece Hall and is light and airy. Its collection of children’s picture books is impressive. I really have to restrain myself when coming here as each table calls to me. Recommendations from staff are also thoughtful and tempting. Having recently watched an online event on Zora Neale Hurston, the owner immediately took me to copies of her work as well as Audre Lorde and others.What I have a tendency to do at all these bookshops is have a good look at the shelves of books that have been preordered by customers. Most of the books I read are recommended by people I know and peeking at the order shelf always whets my appetite for something left of field. Now you don’t get to look at those preorder shelves in large bookstores, do you?