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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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