Category Archives: children’s bookstores

Indie Spotlight: A Children’s Place in Portland Oregon

Portland is a book lovers town and everyone has their favorites, of course, but the jewel in the crown of children’s bookstores is unquestionably A Children’s Place which was founded only 3 years after the legendary Powells. They are known for their excellent preschool story times, their events large & small celebrating some of the greatest luminaries in the children’s book world, and also many of our local rising stars. But more than anything they are known for the quality and devotion of their staff.

  1. You have been open since 1974. What is your secret to survival? 

Yes, we have been open 44 years. The first owners, Lynn and Jan, owned the shop for 21 years. Since that time, it has been through three other owners and two other locations. We may have many things that contribute to our survival, but it is no secret that our loyal customers are the main reason we stay afloat, year after year.


As one of your loyal and happy customers who has been coming to your shop since I was in the 5th grade, I’d just like to say thank you for being there for the reader I was and the reader I have become!

  1. Describe the atmosphere you try to create in your shop. What are some special features of  A Children’s Place?

We try to create an atmosphere where everyone feels comfortable to hang out for as long as they’d like, and to ask any questions they may have. We have generations who have grown up in our shop, and we know that many of the kids feel that our bookstore is like a second living room! We love hearing the clatter of wooden toys on our stage in the back corner, or to see a  bigger kid snuggled up in the big stuffed panda’s lap, completely absorbed in a book. The preschools in the area join us for story time every Thursday morning, and we also try to get middle grade readers in for special events whenever possible.


You have the most awesome book corner/ event space. I adore this mural it is absolutely the best thing about your new store.

  1. A Children’s Place has recently moved into a smaller space, so your books must be carefully curated. How do you decide what books and related items to carry?

It is always tricky to order books, but you are correct that it is even more difficult now that we are in a smaller space! We have always wished that we could have a crystal ball, the same as all of the other book buyers out there. Now that we are smaller, even if we don’t get our orders exactly right, we just have to be extra efficient about returning our stock that isn’t selling. When it comes to restocking orders, we try to send smaller orders more often now, instead of larger orders less often. This seems to help. And when it comes to new books, we still rely on the expert advice from our publisher sales reps to direct us to the books that will be the best fit for us.


  1. As middle-grade authors, we’re curious to know what titles, new or old, fiction or nonfiction, you find yourself recommending most often to readers ages 8-12?      

It’s tough to say which books we recommend the most, as that number is not small. I would say that all of us love to direct people to the Oregon Battle of the Books shelf, since the books on those lists are fantastic, and always our bestsellers every year. The Oregon Readers Choice Award list is also a wonderful selection.

Thank goodness for the hard working school librarians who sponsor the Oregon Readers Choice Awards which has my favorite acronym ever–the ORCAs! And don’t even get me started on the fabulousness of the Oregon Battle of the Books.

Some of our current staff new and old favorites include: Glass Sentence, by S.E. Grove, Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle, by Janet Fox, Three Times Lucky, by Sheila Turnage, Beyond the Bright Sea, by Lauren Wolk, Girl Who Drank the Moon, by Kelly Barnhill, Raymie Nightingale, by Kate DiCamillo, Al Capone Does My Shirts, by Gennifer Choldenko, Inquisitor’s Tale by Adam Gidwitz, and Titanic: Voices From the Disaster, by Deborah Hopkinson. Of course, we could go on and on with titles, but if people need more recommendations, they can come into the bookstore, and we’ll pull out tall stacks of our favorites for them to peruse.  Each staff member even has her own “picks” shelf.

5.Do you have any activities coming up that would be of special interest to middle-graders?

Unfortunately, we don’t have any middle grade authors on the calendar at the moment. I’m sure that will be rectified soon. Sometimes we set up middle grade authors to go to schools, since that gives them an automatic large audience. We do have a couple of graphic novel authors going to schools soon. Middle grade and young adult readers are not as easy to lure to the bookstore for events, but we have found that sometimes it works really well to have multi-author events, so we will be looking to do another of those as soon as we can arrange it!

6. If a family is visiting A Children’s Place from out of town, would there be family-friendly places near your shop where they could get a snack or meal after shopping? And if they could stay longer, are there some unique family activities or sights they shouldn’t miss?

We are across the street from a sweet little cafe called Caffe Destino. There are a number of other cute family-friendly restaurants on that same street. Irving Park is just down the street from the store as well. Right up the hill, still on Fremont, there are many fun things to do near our old location. Pip’s has become a destination. Who doesn’t love doughnuts?

Thank you Pam and Kira of A Children’s Place. If you are ever in Portland give them a visit! You can find them at
1423 NE Fremont St.
Portland, OR 97212, USA
And if you want to order a book you can reach them at (503) 284-8294


Read Me a Story, Ink

Hey, everybody! I’m so excited to introduce an amazing website you might not have heard of before: READ ME A STORY, INK.

Robert Topp runs the Hermitage bookstore in Denver Colorado, but a few years ago he started the READ ME A STORY, INK website to give teachers, parents, librarians and kids the chance to read some of the great children’s stories from magazines like Highlights and the Cricket Magazine Group. Robert has indexed by topic, age range, and author more than 1,560 of short stories and put them all in one place. What a great resource!

You know what else is super cool? Robert reads aloud dozens of the stories, recording them in his wonderful, warm voice with special sound effects. Each story only takes a few minutes and can be used at home with your own kids in a variety of scenarios. Perhaps you’d like your children – or students – to do something besides watch television or glued to the iPad or computer screen. Perhaps you don’t have time to read aloud to them. Perhaps they’re in the early  learning stages of reading, and listening to a wonderful story (especially for kids with short attention spans) is a great alternative. Listen to stories in the car while running errands or during road trips.

All the recordings can be found on the website, absolutely free.

I met Robert a few months ago when he contacted me to get copies of my stories that were published in Cricket Magazine several years ago–and he recorded some of them! What a treat to hear my stories read aloud in his wonderful, warm voice. Listen in on our conversation . . .

Robert: Many years ago when my kids were in elementary school, I started reading to both of their classes once a week. Reading aloud was a nightly activity in our house so taking it into the school was a natural progression. After they graduated – they are now 31 and 29 – a few of the teachers that had taught our kids asked me if I would like to continue reading aloud. Once word got around the school, other teachers asked if I would read to their classes as well. I currently read to 13 classes, first through fifth grades. I started to collect and specialize in short stories because I only read to any given class once a month and I don’t have the continuity or time for chapter books.

Kimberley: How did you come up with the idea to create the website?

Robert: As my collection of short stories grew, I found it increasingly difficult to remember which book contained the stories I wanted to share. I started an index for my own use but when it grew to over 800 stories, I realized there might be some value in the index for teachers and parents. With the help of a friend, I turned the index into a website. As with most projects, Read Me a Story, Ink started to grow in numerous directions. I added recommended reading lists based on family and personal favorites, then links to other children’s sites I personally found useful. Stories that were in the public domain I added as printable stories and eventually started contacting current authors for permission to include their stories. The latest offshoot is audio stories.

Kimberley: Where does your love for children’s literature come from?

Robert: When our first child, Harrison, was born in 1986, I bought Harrison and myself matching t-shirts that read, “If you love me, read me a story.” I thought it good advice and reading aloud became a nightly routine continuing until the boys were in their mid-teens. The love for the literature was coincident with the shared journey of discovery with our kids. Since I own a rare and out-of-print bookshop we always had a wonderful flow of books to choose from. To this day my wife and I and the boys all recommend books to each other constantly. I still have the t-shirt.

Kimberley: Tell us about the process of recording the stories on audio. They are SO well done and beautiful! Are you the narrator in all of them? Do you have your own studio?

Robert: When I first thought to add audio selections to Read Me a Story, Ink, a friend suggested a share-ware audio program called Audacity put together by a team of sound engineers. That, some good advice from the folks at Guitar Center on microphones, and the gift of a sound deadening backdrop from my wife and I had my own 8 x 8 ft studio. Since my site is not commercial, I can’t afford to pay professionals to read so I do all of the narration. I do have a friend that I pay to do musical introductions but beyond that I am a one-man band.

Kimberley: What’s the most rewarding part of running the website?

Robert: Next to the time spent in classrooms reading to kids, by far the most rewarding part of creating and maintaining Read Me a Story, Ink is the contact I have with authors, parents and teachers who share a common interest in children’s and YA literature.

Kimberley: Do you ever get to meet the authors that you feature in person? Any fun stories to share?

Robert: Sadly, though I consider many of the authors that I correspond with good friends, my contact remains virtual with one exception. I kept running into stories in Cricket Magazine by an author named Robert Culp. I absolutely loved the warmth and humor in his stories about best friends Cotton and Rooster set in 1940’s Arkansas. For two years I periodically did Google searches trying to find something about the author but all I ever turned up was an astro-physics professor. In one final, last ditch effort I paged down seemingly countless pages in my Google search and discovered that the professor was, in fact, the author of the Cotton and Rooster stories. I contacted him via his Facebook page only to discover that he was a professor in Boulder, Colorado, just a few miles from my store. Within the week we met at the store to our mutual delight.

Robert’s philosophy:

Reading aloud is one of the absolute nicest activities for adults and children to share. It creates warm bonds, opens a child’s mind to new ideas, forms topics of discussion thus keeping lines of communication open and creates a positive role model for the child to become a lifetime reader.

Thank you so much for being with us today, Robert, and please check out Read Me a Story Ink! everyone! Let Robert read a story to your kids, students, or library patrons today!

Printable stories page:

Audio stories page:

Rattlesnake Rain by Kimberley Griffiths Little Audio:

Banat er Rih: Daughter of the Wind by Kimberley Griffiths Little Print

Kimberley Griffiths Little is the award-winning author of ten Middle-Grade and Young Adult novels with Scholastic and Harpercollins. She’s been juggling drafting new book proposals, eating too many cookies, and wrangling a household that never sleeps . . . On location book trailers and Teacher’s Guides at Kimberley’s website: Friend her on Facebook:


Adventure, Intrigue, and Korea, OH MY!

One of the perks of being a teacher is the authors who grace our school halls, no matter where in the world those halls stand. Korea is such a place, currently front and center in recent events.

First, let me say, as a teacher and author, I appreciate the process: long hours, extensive research, pondering, the wrestling and wavering of ideas, bits of your heart and soul on paper. I value how one’s experiences provide rich content for the stories we create and how those events can touch the lives of students in the classroom. I especially love when students are able to connect to the person behind those words.

Meet author, Anne Sibley O’Brien, and her middle grade novel, In the Shadow of the Sun, an adventure story set in North Korea.

When our school librarian announced an upcoming author visit, I was intrigued to learn that the author, Anne Sibley O’Brien, had grown up in South Korea as a daughter of medical missionaries. A prolific picture book author, Ms. O’Brien’s first novel for middle school kids, In the Shadow of the Sun, unfolds in North Korea, a country currently in the midst of rising tensions around the world.

When my class and I pick up an author’s work, I remind them we are looking inside the mind of another person. We are immersing ourselves into a world that has been created from nothing. If someone else was to tell the same story, it would be voiced from a totally different perspective. In Ms. Obrien’s case, we are not only privilege to her writing acumen, but also bicultural experiences that provide sustenance in the backdrop of a foreign land.

Book Synopsis: North Korea is known as one of the most oppressed countries on Earth, with a dictatorial leader, a starving population, and harsh punishment for rebellion.

Not the best place for a family vacation.

Yet, that’s exactly where Mia Andrews finds herself, on a tour with her aid-worker father and fractious (would irritable be better here?) older brother, Simon. Mia was adopted from South Korea as a baby, and the trip raises tough questions about where she feels she really belongs. Her dad is then arrested for spying, just as forbidden photographs of North Korean slave-labor camps fall into Mia’s hands. The only way to save Dad: get the pictures out of the country. Thus, Mia and Simon set off on a harrowing journey to the border, without food, money, or shelter, in a land where anyone who sees them might turn them in, and getting caught could mean prison — or worse.

 Author Interview

In the Shadow of the Sun, Anne Sibley O’Brien

Please tell us about In the Shadow of the Sun and how you came to write it.

Our family arrived in Korea in March 1960, when my parents were hired by the Presbyterian Church to do medical missionary work. I was seven. We lived in Seoul and Daegu and on the island of Geoje, and I attended Ewha Women’s University for my junior year of college. Along the way I became bilingual and bicultural, and that background has influenced the content of some of my books, including the folktale 바보 온달, published as The Princess and the Beggar (now out of print) and my graphic novel of the Korean hero tale, The Legend of Hong Kil Dong: The Robin Hood of Korea. 

Those books were both inspired by retellings of traditional Korean stories. In the Shadow of the Sun, however, is a completely original story, and a modern one. The inspiration for the book was a radio interview in which my attention was drawn to the people of North Korea in a way I’d never thought of them before. (More about the story here.) That led to a ten-year process of research and writing, including several remarkable encounters with North Koreans who had defected.

You can find more about my childhood and background, photographs and videos, responses to the novel, and whether I’ve ever visited North Korea, on the novel’s blog, There is also an activity guide created by Island Readers and Writers.

How do the events in your book tie into our current events with North Korea?

In the Shadow of the Sun is the first fictional portrayal of contemporary North Korea for young English-speaking readers. When I was writing it, I never anticipated just how much the DPRK would be in the spotlight!

The picture of North Korea that’s presented in the media is such a cartoonish one. I think it’s important to consider not just the government but the people, everyday citizens who have no say in what their leaders do. Of course, my plot is a completely imagined one, but I’ve tried to weave in bits of current North Korean politics and society — and most of all, people — in a way that will give readers a glimpse of what it might be like to live there today. In the Author’s Note, I also recommend other books and films which can add more context. I hope that people might come away from the novel with a sense of the humanity of North Korea’s people.