Over time we'll be featuring the most special UK bookshops where you'll also find our book "Fearless, The Story of Daphne Caruana Galizia" to purchase. Please support independent bookshops.
30 October 2020
10 Middle Lane, London N8 8PL | Tel. 0203 632 0823
We interviewed Urmi Merchant creator of Pickled Pepper Books along with her partner Steven Pryse. Their bookshop, which is also a cafe and events space is situated in Crouch End, North London.
A. We are an interactive children’s specialist holding author/illustrator events, fringe children’s theatre and workshops for both the public and schools around north London.
A. A lot of brainstorming! We were really interested in folk culture in all its forms at the time of opening and decided that Pickled Pepper would be a great name for a bookshop.
A. Repeat custom! Our customers love our recommendations and so do the kids they’re buying for.
A. Lately we have consistently been asked for books with BAME representation and that explore anti-racist themes. We are also often asked about books that can help explore emotions and for books bridging the gap between picture books and chapter books.
A. This is always dependent on the child, their interests, how old they are, their feelings about reading. We then take it from there.
A. Pre Covid every day - really!
A. I loved Pippi Longstocking and The Worst Witch. They were some of the first books I read independently.
26 September 2020
14-15 John Street, Bath BA1 2JL | Tel. 01225 331155
We interviewed Juliette Bottomley of Mr B's Emporium of Reading Delights, a beautiful, quirky bookshop full of character in Bath.
A. We love to recommend books above all else with an incredibly passionate and knowledgeable staff which creates a very engaging and lively shop floor environment which customers really enjoy.
A. This was very much a random, lightbulb moment over a glass of wine just as we were thinking of opening the shop. We like that it has a slightly Dickensian feel about it but it can also be shortened to Mr B’s!
A. Once in our guestbook, a little boy had written “This is the best shop ever – and I didn’t think I liked books!”
A. We are often asked for a great recommendation for a book to read when a new sibling is coming or for something as a special Christening present.
A. If it is to help kids to get into the habit of reading when they are at the early stages of independent reading, we often like to introduce them to some brilliant graphic novels – they feel all grown up, they are often very funny and the visual element really helps with their comprehension and helps make the whole “reading” process less daunting.
A. In our pre-Covid world, we held story-times with guest authors and we had started to have local schools come in with a class of children for free story-times and a chance to explore a local bookshop! We work with many local schools to help organise author events during term time.
A. I listened to Black Beauty so many times on audio cassette I think I could still recite it by heart now! My firm picturebook favourite was (and still is!) 'Harry the Dirty Dog'.
16 September 2020
10, 12 The Grove, Ilkley LS29 9EG | Tel. 01943 609335 | W: Grovebookshop.com
We interviewed Mike Sansbury, manager at The Grove Bookshop, one of the North of England’s best-known independent bookshops with its own small children section. They have been selling books in the pretty spa town of Ilkley for over 40 years.
A. We are a longstanding Independent Bookshop which serves the local community. We tailor our stock to suit our customers.
A. The two most regular comments are that people always find what they’re looking for, and that they often find things they didn’t expect.
A. People are always keen to get books which are suitable for children of particular ages, especially those who fall between traditional age groups. Reading age doesn’t always match emotional maturity etc.
A. We ask about the child’s interests, which usually gives us a good starting point.
A. We have had story time sessions but our children’s department is very small, so events can cause congestion and put off other children, so we tend not to do this very often.
A. We run book stalls at all major events – last year we did over 120 during the 16 days of the Festival. This year will be rather different, as the Festival will be much reduced and will be mostly streamed.
A. I can remember being totally gripped by Treasure Island, caught up in the sheer adventure and suspense.
31 August 2020
5 Bridge Street, Salisbury Wiltshire SP1 2ND | Tel. 01722 237172 | W: Rocketshipbookshop.co.uk
We interviewed Jo Boyles, who runs The Rocketship Bookshop, a specialised bookshop for children and young people. They pride themselves on offering a wide range of books for all interests and ages and have a passion for encouraging children to read for pleasure.
A. My daughter will tell you it was her idea, but it was also inspired by The Kinks song 'Supersonic rocket Ship' and the film Silent Running (despite the fact that film broke my heart when I was little)
A. The best feedback always comes from the children themselves, we've heard from some children that our bookshop is their favourite one and it's always good to hear people compliment us on our inclusivity and range of books. Getting to know customers, whether in person or online, as they become regular customers is the most satisfying part though.
A. The best way to help children find the right book is to listen, to have a conversation and treat children with respect. It's also the best part of the job.
A. I've got quite a few books from childhood that made a huge impact on me. Meg and Mog, The Worst Witch, The Ghost of Thomas Kempe were very much loved by me. I have a very strong memory of reading The Clocktower Ghost by Gene Kemp, it was probably the first time I read a book to myself and I still remember the feeling of accomplishment and how moving I found the end of the book.
25 August 2020
2a Church Court, Richmond, Surrey TW9 1JL | Tel. 0208 9486775
We interviewed Tony West, who runs The Alligator's Mouth along with a great team of book lovers. Their independent bookshop is in Richmond and stocks books for babies to late teens, as well as a small selection of cards and board games.
A. Between us we read a lot of children's books, old and new, and we are good at diagnosing the needs of the customer so we can put the right books for a child at the right time
A. Lemony Snicket figured it out first. He said it. You will find the answer on our website.
A. The latest one?
A. We listen carefully to what the parent is telling us and ask a few more questions to try and figure out what we need to do. Usually we aren't needed to introduce a child to reading as such, especially if the family have some baby books. But helping them to discover a love of reading means we have to read a lot of books that are going to be the gateway into wonderland for any given child.
A. In a non-pandemic world there are regular readings and activities with authors and illustrators visiting. Mark runs a very popular comic club and there are regular storytimes. We are always organising author visits into schools and we also host The Alligator's Mouth Award for Illustrated Early Fiction in conjunction with the Bright Agency and Gardners.
A. Tony - I Can Fly by Ruth Krauss and Mary Blair. I used to think the girl was so clever (especially as a clam).
Margaret - the Little Grey Rabbit books by Alison Uttley and Margaret Tempest.
Helen - The Bear Who Went to the Ballet by Jean Richardson and Susan Winter. The illustrations stayed with me and considered my copy a prized possession.
"The book is a great example of standing up for what you believe in the face of adversity and treads lightly on the darker forces at work in the world in which we live. If you love to read about characters in storybooks who fight injustice and stand up to cruelty and wrongdoing then Daphne Caruana Galizia is someone who did it for real."
Tony West - The Alligator's Mouth Bookshop
15 August 2020
Church Lane, Alby, Norwich NR11 7HB | Tel. 01263 761402
We interviewed Annie Rhodes, one of the lovely people who run Norfolk Children's Book Centre. Their bookshop is a treasure trove of 60,000 children's books in the middle of rural North Norfolk.
A. We welcome our customers in with friendliness, expertise (and free tea and biscuits), the time to stay and browse for as long as they like, and the freedom to pick up any book and read it. Our team are incredibly knowledgeable, and will come back to any request with an armful of books tailored to the customers desires. We are all very sad to not have re-opened to the public since lockdown, but have been busy recommending books over the phone and by email and posting out to customers all over the UK. We plan to re-open by appointment from the autumn.
A. The best feedback we receive is when parents tell us that their children weren't that interested in reading before visiting, but that we were able to guide them towards something they enjoyed.
A. We get a lot of specific requests from parents and teachers asking for advice for their children, of all ages and reading abilities. I would say one of the most common requests is how to get a reluctant reader into reading for pleasure. Our team are always on hand to give out friendly advice on all manner of requests; we like a challenge!
A. We always say that it is key to let children choose for themselves; anyone who has visited our shop will know it is piled high with books, and we encourage our customers to browse as widely and for as long as they would like.
We are also on hand to help with finding specific books or books on any theme, and often have too many suggestions to fit in our arms at one time! We understand it can be overwhelming seeing so many books and not knowing where to start, so we are always happy to help with picking out suitable suggestions.
A. Given current circumstances, we aren't planning to organise any events in the foreseeable future, but we have a history of working with schools local and nationwide to bring lots of brilliant authors and illustrators into the shop and schools. As you will see from our walls, we have had a lot of famous authors in to sign and doodle all over the walls!
A. We offer a wide range of support to schools and school libraries, and have continued to supply schools throughout lockdown. We have been into 7 schools (and counting!) to rejuvenate their libraries this summer; we help weed through old stock, create or recreate a library space and fill it with beautiful new books, all labelled and jacketed and Dewey-classified to library standard.
Another of our most popular services is our approval service to teachers and schools. If you have a particular subject, topic or any other request, we can select a collection of wonderful books (based on your budget) and deliver these to your school free of charge for you to browse. If you would like to keep some of the books, we will collect the rest and invoice the school for the ones kept. We are here for teachers for any of their book needs, and we are happy to help with class sets, lists of books and quotations.
We are hoping to be able to go back into schools to deliver our brilliant book fairs, depending on health and safety guidelines, in the autumn. We also offer 10% on all school book orders.
"Fearless looks like a beautifully-illustrated narrative non-fiction book on an interesting and previously little-known about subject in modern history. The subject is very sensitively portrayed for children and we are excited to order this book in from our wonderful Bounce rep soon."
Annie Rhodes - Norfolk Children's Book Centre
13 August 2020
30 Crown Street, Brentwood, Essex CM14 4BA | Tel. 01277 230068 | Website
We interviewed Natasha Radford, co-owner with husband Jim of the independent children's bookshop Chicken and Frog. Not only do they stock a wide range of beautiful books, they also put on events throughout the year, in-store and also in schools. They've now adapted some of their events so that people can access them online for free.
A. Ready for a ‘dad’ joke?
A chicken and a frog walk into a bookshop.
The chicken says “Book, book, book!”
And the frog says “Read-it, read-it, read-it!”
A. Usually, it’s about how to move children on from a particular series or author.
A. Oh, that’s a hard one. When someone comes back after a recommendation, to choose a new book because they loved what we have suggested. If we can match the perfect book to the reader, then we have done our job!
A. We try to engage with the child as much as possible, finding out what they are interested in generally. Choosing books is a very personal thing, so we always endeavour to take the time getting to know the reader.
A. Yes. We have story time twice weekly – usually it’s in the shop, but at the moment it’s online. This is a free event, which is extremely popular. Before lockdown, we were providing a monthly sensory story time too, which we are hoping to bring back soon. We run two book clubs – one for 8 years plus and the other for adults, who love children’s books. Microsoft run sessions for us, during the holidays, focusing mainly on coding.
And then there are author/illustrator events, either online at present, or outside in our beautiful pedestrianised street. These vary in format, from workshops to Q and A sessions.
We work closely with other businesses too, to put on community events throughout the year – especially during the school holidays. For example, a Santa Hunt which runs through the Christmas break. And we host two grottos – one for the public and one for children with sensory needs.
The other strand of our business is a tuition centre, as I was a school teacher in my former life! We teach English and maths, from years 1 to 11. Lessons are taught in-house in normal times, although we are using the wonders of Zoom until September.
A. I was always read to and told stories as a child. My Great Grandmother used to tell us about her life in Russia, before moving to Canada and later England. Those stories have stuck with me.
In terms of books though, A.A.Milne’s ‘When We Were Very Young’ and Lewis Carroll’s ‘Alice in Wonderland’ were firm favourites and still are. In fact, I have a collection of Alice, which has reached just shy of 230 copies. It’s a bit of an obsession.
"The first thing that strikes you about this book is the clever use of colour, with Daphne being highlighted in brighter colours from the beginning. It is an incredibly moving story and one that I believe should be shared worldwide. Daphne’s courage shines through – she was and is still an inspirational woman."
Natasha Radford - Chicken and Frog Bookshop