For the new year, here’s a retrospective of bookstores we spotlighted in 2015, recalling a special feature or two of each and a couple of their favorite books for middle-graders.
The shops we featured are all over the country (well, okay, two are in Oregon). Some are new and already doing well, and one claims to be the country’s oldest continuously operating shop. Most are in small or mid-size towns or neighborhoods, and many were founded by first-time booksellers simply determined that their community would have a bookstore. They thrive by knowing their readers, that stubborn and growing tribe who like to hold physical books in their hands and talk about them with real people who know and love books.
The great thing about independent bookstores is that they’re free to create whatever atmosphere they imagine and to choose what books to buy and promote. If you have discovered a shop you love, support them by going there often to hang out, buy and enjoy. Since each bookshop is a unique experience though, you also might want to “collect” those experiences, seeking out shops in your region and wherever you travel, and taking a middle-grader or two along.
How about one of these?
–Bookends, Kailua, Hawaii (through the tunnel from Honolulu)
Interview with owner /manager Pat Banning in January 2015, who says the secret lies in being “just big enough.”
Features: general collection of new and used, but strong in children’s. Lots of fantasy and hard to find older books like Raggedy Ann and some early Nancy Drew .
Pat recommends: Magyk by Angie Sage and The Sisters Grimm series by Michael Buckley
–Writer’s Block, Las Vegas (www.writersblock.org)
Interview with Drew Cohen in February 2015, who says of the store’s writer’s workshops: “middle-graders are often the most fun to work with.”
Features: a new store, with a woodshop and fascinating artificial bird sanctuary and adoption program.
Drew recommends: Battle Bunny by Jon Scieska and Mac Barnett, and Writing Magic by Gail Carson Levine.
—Octavia Books, New Orleans (www.octaviabooks.com)
Interview with co-owner Judith Lafitte in March, 2015
Features: It’s not every bookstore that has an atrium with a waterfall or served as a “port in the storm” after Hurricane Katrina.
Judith recommends: Ms. Rapscott’s Girls by Elsie Primavera and The Imaginary by A.F. Harold.
—Square Books, Junior, Oxford MS (www.squarebooks.com/junior)
Interview with Paul Fyke in April 2015
Features: Called ‘an independent among independents,” it strives to be welcoming with couches and play spaces rather than having a commercial look.
Paul recommends: The Name of this Book is Secret by Pseudonymous Bosch and How They Croaked: the Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous by Georgia Bragg
—Annie Bloom’s, Portland Oregon (www.anniebloomsbooks.com)
Interview with children’s author and bookseller Rosanne Parry in May, 2015
Features: Part of the charming Multnomah Village neighborhood. Has a spinning rack of unabridged classics. The store cat’s name is. . .Annie Bloom.
Rosanne recommends: Birchbark House, Louise Erdrich and Poisoned Apples by Christine Hepperman
—Stone Alley Books & Collectables, Galesburg IL
Interview with Ben Stomberg, founder/owner/manager in June 2015 .
Features: Ben went into the bookstore business when the town’s only bookstore closed. Strong in fiction, YA, and children’s books and has a growing selection of comics. Recently merged with the local gaming store to their mutual benefit.
Ben recommends: ” you can’t go wrong with classics” like Where the Sidewalk Ends or anything by Judy Blume.
—Curious Iguana, Frederick Maryland (www.curiousiguana.com)
Interview with Marlene England, co-founder and co-owner in July 2015
Features: Just two-and-a-half years old and thriving. Diverse and globally focused books. A percentage of monthly sales goes to global nonprofits.
Marlene recommends: The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker and The Crossover, Kwame Alexander
—Beach Books, Seaside Oregon
Rosanne Parry’s interview with owner Karen Emerling in November, 2015
Features: Monthly Lunch in the Loft series with regional authors. Carries many local authors and books related to the coast.
—Once Upon a Time, Montrose CA
Interview with Maureen Palacios in December 2015
Features: The oldest continuous children’s bookshop in the country and never had a better year, Noted for their lively window displays. Décor and music have the more sophisticated child in mind.
Maureen recommends: Crenshaw by Catherine Applegate and Gingerbread for Liberty: How a German Baker Helped Win the American Revolution by Mara Rockliff.
Readers, have you visited any of these shops? Do you have another favorite you think MUF should spotlight?
Sue Cowing lives in Honolulu and is the author of puppet-and-boy novel You Will Call Me Drog (Carolrhoda 2011, Usborne UK 2012)