The Bookshop That Grew Me

I wouldn’t be where I am today, in my dream job as a CYA Librarian and blogging about books, if it weren’t for two things:

  1. My parents
  2. The Original Children’s Bookshop

The Original Children’s Bookshop has been part of my life since I was a baby.  My parents bought my first books for me from the shop when it used to be in Beckenham and were regular customers when the shop later moved to Victoria Street.  I have vague memories of visiting the shop as a kid but it wasn’t until I was a teenager that I started visiting regularly.  I went to school in the central city and my dad’s business was there as well so I spent a lot of time exploring the centre of Christchurch.  When I was about 14 my reading spark was ignited and I couldn’t get enough of books.  The central public library became one of my favourite places.  When I was old enough I started helping my dad out by running errands around town and I would often wander down to the bookshop after I was finished.  As I started to earn a bit of money I would spend most of it on books.  I remember going into the bookshop to see if the next instalments in my favourite series were in yet.  I especially loved Philip Pullman at this stage and I was very eager to get my hands on the next book by William Nicholson (I loved the Wind Singer trilogy!).  It was while I was chatting with the lovely ladies in the bookshop one day that I got the courage to ask if there was any work available.  It must have been my lucky day as they were looking for someone to do some extra hours in the lead-up to Christmas.  I almost skipped out of the bookshop, I was so happy!  That began six wonderful years of working in the best children’s bookshop around.

Writing this now I still remember the smell of the bookshop as I walked through the doors.  It was a mixture of paper, printer’s ink, wooden toys, plastic dinosaurs, and puppets, but it was also magical.  It reminded me of my childhood but it was also the promise of all those stories waiting to be read by children and adults alike.

One person who I can’t thank enough is Sheila Sinclair.  Sheila owned the bookshop for many years and she took me under her wing from my very first day.  She taught me so much about children’s literature and the book trade, like how to choose the perfect book for a customer, how to display books to catch a customer’s eye, what toys are suitable for different ages, and how to wrap the perfect present (a skill that I am always thankful for).  I’m also hugely thankful to Mary Sangster, the new owner of The Original Children’s Bookshop.  Mary taught me all about the other side of running a bookshop, the behind-the-scenes work that keeps a bookshop ticking along.  I spent many years unpacking, pricing and processing new stock and also got to eavesdrop on visits from publishers selling their new titles.  There were many other lovely ladies who I had the pleasure of working with over the years and who made me feel part of the bookshop family.  You all helped to fuel my love of children’s literature and encouraged me to grow my collection of wonderful books.

There were so many things I loved about working in The Original Children’s Bookshop, but my favourite things were new release deliveries and meeting amazing authors.  I loved it when new releases arrived!  Sometimes you would get a whole trolley of beautiful new books in a trolley to shelve and all the staff would gather around and check them out.  Other times I would get to be the first to see them when I opened the box to process them.  It was hard to restrain yourself from opening a box with a big ‘New Releases’ sticker on it, even if there were stacks of other boxes waiting to be unpacked.  I also met so many amazing authors in my time at the bookshop.  It was incredibly exciting meeting and getting the chance to talk to Jacqueline Wilson, Michael Morpurgo, Chris Riddell, Anthony Brown, Joseph Delaney and Julia Donaldson.  I was awestruck (and I still am every time I meet an author or illustrator I love).

The Original Children's Bookshop

Saturday 31st October is New Zealand Bookshop Day.  Make sure you visit your local bookshop and tell them how much you love what they do.  Buy books and support them so that they can keep bringing you the books that you love.  If you’re in Christchurch make sure you pop along to The Original Children’s Bookshop (now at 227 Blenheim Road).  They have illustrators Jenny Cooper and Helen Taylor in the shop and you could even come and listen to me read some stories at 2:30pm.

Thank you to Sheila, Mary and The Original Children’s Bookshop for growing this passionate reader.

Happy New Zealand Book Week!

There is no New Zealand Book Month this week but the wonderful New Zealand Society of Authors are running New Zealand Book Week instead, from October 26 to November 1.  This is the week to celebrate all the fantastic, talented authors and illustrators (don’t forget the illustrators!) that we have here in NZ.  There are events organised all around the country, with authors and illustrators visiting independent bookshops to celebrate NZ Bookshop Day on Saturday 31 October.  Check out the list of events on the NZ Society of Authors website.

Join me here on My Best Friends Are Books this week to celebrate New Zealand Book Week.  I’ll be highlighting my favourite NZ authors, illustrators and books, giving away some great NZ books, and of course I’ll be reading NZ books.

Happy NZ Book Week!