Archive for December, 2009

By Fiona Dunbar
Author of The Pink Chameleon

Readers of my blog will not be surprised to learn that my Bookshop Love choice is the wonderful Big Green Bookshop in Wood Green.

It’s still only a baby – not even two yet – but is blessed with the knowledge and startling charisma of one far older.

This is because it is run by two guys – Tim West and Simon Key – who have 35 years of book selling experience between them.

They set up shop after the last chain bookshop in Wood Green – where they worked – closed down. A brave thing to do, but the passion and dedication they bring to what they do is second to none. They wanted to offer:

The kind of bookshop that we’d like to visit ourselves…with a thoughtful range of titles, friendly knowledgeable staff and some cracking gems that surprise and excite us.

Exactly what I look for in a bookshop!

They also have a very amusing blog, Open a Bookshop What Could Possibly Go Wrong – with the tagline: “Two Blokes, One Bookshop, No Idea”.

It is a general bookshop, not a specialist children’s one, yet their calendar of events (of all kinds as well as children’s) and their involvement with local schools is truly impressive.
That's Simon in the picture with Horrid Henry

Horrid Henry comes to the Big Green Bookshop.
That’s Simon on the right.

Here are Simon’s own very personal current favourite children’s books (at this particular moment in time):

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle – “A simple gorgeously illustrated picture book that I loved as a child and that is a clear favourite with my own daughter. She loves pointing at all the bad things the caterpillar eats before he gets a stomach ache.”

Olga Da Polga by Michael Bond – “This in my opinion is a much better series of books than Michael’s more famous Paddington Bear and follows the exploits of a rather extraordinary Guinea Pig. The stories in it are gentle and heartwarming, and it’s a great bedtime read.”

You’re a Bad Man Mr Gum! by Andy Stanton – “This is a work of absolute genius. Andy Stanton has managed to write a series of books that adults and kids find equally hilarious. Very much in the vain of Roald Dahl, but with a modern twist.”

Danny Champion of the World – “a book I read at least once a year. A magical story asbout the relationship between a boy and his father, who leads a secret life…As a story for boys, I’d say this pretty much tops anything.”

The Riddle of the Poisoned Monk by Sarah Matthias. “Time travel, murder, mystery, fantastic characters and a hugely entertaining page turner for children aged 8-14. Written by Sarah for her own children, I devoured it in one sitting, and was left wondering whodunnit right until the end.”

“Our customers are a real mix, which reflects Wood Green’s demographic,” says Simon. “Most people that come through the door are extremely well read and keep up with the latest reviews. We have particulary strong children’s and literary fiction sections and also do extremely well with books on local history, which suggests there is an enormous pride in living in Haringey [the local borough].”

Hurrah for booksellers who really love books, and know what they’re talking about!


The Big Green Bookshop
Unit 1, Brampton Park Road
Wood Green
N22 6BG
Tel 020 8881 6767



A Bit About Fiona Dunbar


Fiona Dunbar has written and illustrated several picture books but is best known as the author of Toonhead, The Silk Sisters Trilogy and the Lulu Baker stories on which is based the BBC television series Jinx .


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By Odette Elliott
Author of My Big Brother JJ

The Willesden Bookshop

The Willesden Bookshop sells many multicultural children’s books, including many unusual and imported titles.

They are specialist suppliers to schools, nurseries, libraries and professional development agencies, an independent company with many years’ experience in the provision of a wide range of children’s books and a particular commitment to quality books that also reflect positive images of our multi-ethnic society.


The Willesden BookshopThe shop is located in North West London – one of the most ethnically diverse areas of the city – and aims to celebrate the rich cultures and languages of this community in their choice of children’s books from all over the world.

The books are excellently displayed and children can see them easily.


The Willesden Bookshop
95 High Road
London NW10 2SF
Tel 020-8451 7000



About Odette Elliott

Odette ElliottOdette has written four picture books about “Sammy”, the youngest in a family of four children. This was followed by a collection of school stories entitled Nightingale News, published by Scholastic. Her latest picture book My Big Brother JJ, illustrated by Patrice Aggs, was published by Tamarind Books in September 2009. It was described by the Irish Examiner as “a charming, beautifully illustrated one-parent family book for ages five to eight”.

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By Rosalind Adam
Author of Bathtime Rap

Shop Front in Leicester

"Hotly reviewed books are not necessarily the bestsellers."

So you want to buy a book for a nine-year-old boy who loves pirate stories but isn’t too good at reading. How do you decide what to get him? You go into your local independent children’s bookshop and ask their advice. They know the market. They have a shop full of children’s books and can instantly point you towards that perfect gift.

Sadly most UK people don’t have access to such a luxury. There are only twenty independent children’s book shops in the country and I am pleased to say that Leicester has one of them. The Reading Shop is on the main shopping parade that runs through the busy Leicester suburb of Oadby.

I went to meet the owner, Lynn Moore, and her enthusiasm was infectious. She has a passion for children’s books and is dedicated to helping children who have trouble learning to read.

‘When I was a little girl reading books was an object of delight and comfort, an escape into another world,’ Lynn told me. ‘I always had a dream of opening up a children’s bookshop, of being able to help parents choose the right books for their children.’

Lynn trained as an Educational Psychologist and worked for many years in mainstream schools. Together with a friend she developed a literacy programme to help children with reading difficulties, running after-school literacy classes in a small rented room. Things have moved on and up since those days. She now has a dedicated teaching area over the shop with 60 children attending her after-school sessions.

‘The environment is perfect. The children are surrounded by books from the minute they arrive,’ explained Lynn. If enthusiasm really is infectious then these lucky children will be ‘infected’ for life.

Lynn has read all her stock and has learnt from experience not to rely on reviewers.Shop Front in Leicester

‘Hotly reviewed books are not necessarily the best sellers,’ she said. ‘Independent bookshops can nurture the unknown. If we notice a gem of a book, we can take it and promote it. No one dictates to us.’

The Reading Shop does more than sell books and run after-school literacy classes. They organise book fairs, storytelling sessions, baby and toddler groups, author signings, both in the shop and in schools, and Lynn is currently working on plans to hold book parties with the host earning a book or two for their help.

We used to have a number of independent book shops in Leicester. Now we only have The Reading Shop. It’s a thriving business at the moment so let’s make sure we keep it that way. Let’s keep on visiting. Let’s keep on taking advantage of her wealth of book knowledge. Let’s keep the independent bookshops alive.

Lynn Moore’s top 5 children’s books (in reader-age order rather than order of preference):

Babies: Peepo! by Janet Ahlberg

Toddlers: The Elephant and the Bad Baby by Elfrida Vipont and Raymond Briggs

4-6 years: Library Lion by Michelle Knudsen and Kevin Hawkes

Young readers: Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce

Older readers:  Anything by Anthony Horowitz!


The Reading Shop
7 The Parade
Tel 0116 271 7077



A bit about Rosalind Adam

Rosalind AdamI was once a teacher and now I’m a writer. My first children’s picture book, Bathtime Rap, was published in 2008 by Franklin Watts. In the same year I took on the role of lead facilitator of a Heritage Lottery funded project called Leicester Jewish Voices, compiling a book and a website. The project is still keeping me busy with talks and advice to other communities who want to run similar projects.

I have had numerous short stories published in magazines. I have run writing workshops and creative writing classes and recently I have set up a blog called Rosalind Adam is Writing in the Rain. There are always writing projects on the go but this does not stop me from continuing to work hard at my children’s writing and keeping the submissions going because writing for children is my one true passion.

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Indies are about diversity, community and choice

The bad news about Borders calling in the receivers has cast a shadow over the bookselling world.

It’s Christmas time and I’ll bet the temptation to buy all your presents from Amazon is huge.

Well here’s the thing: the culture of READING is under threat.

Libraries are closing. Amazon has become all powerful. And with only a few big players left in the bookselling market – Waterstones and the supermarkets – our reading culture which is enriched by diversity and choice is under threat.

Liz Hoggard in an Independent article called on readers to support local independents this Christmas.

In the New Year, the UK Booksellers Association will be launching an Indiebound campaign based on a successful Indiebound campaign in the United States.

I think we authors and illustrators can also help raise awareness for Indie booksellers.

So here’s a blog challenge for Christmas:

I have created this website on which with your help, I hope to feature independent bookstores up and down the country.

My challenge to you is to write short features about your local indie bookseller.

Post it on your blog or website and I will cross-post it on the blog! Send me your links on mumatwork AT blueyonder.co.uk (don’t forget to change the AT to @!

It’s not difficult – here’s how to do it if you don’t feel like marching up there and demanding an interview.

  • Google your chosen bookstore and get hold of their email address.
  • Email them with the following message: I am participating in a blog challenge designed to support local independent bookstores and I have chosen you as the bookshop I would like to feature on my blog. I would be very grateful if you would reply to these questions and perhaps send me some photographs of your shop.
  • You can ask what you want – but do cover the following bases:

    1. Please give me a brief bio of your shop
    2. Tell us about your clientele
    3.Can you recommend five children’s titles (we’re children’s book people after all)

And don’t forget to ask for pictures! Of the shop or of a window display!

  • Post it on your blog or website, or create a Facebook note.
  • THEN send me a link and a short bio about YOU. I will cross post the article on Bookshop Love, ending with a short profile about the author (you … so there’s something in it for you too)!

Please join this challenge.


(and do forward this challenge to an author near you!)
Thank you in advance,

Candy Gourlay

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