BfK’s Brilliant Children’s Bookshops
White Rose Books, Thirsk, North Yorkshire
Winner of the Gardners Independent Bookseller of The Year, North & Scotland Region 2010 Award, White Rose Books staff love to help young readers choose books. They also have a vibrant programme of events. Owner Sue Lake explains.
We always have a colourful children’s window display to attract the young (currently a Peter Rabbit tea-party) and boards on the pavement with forthcoming events, story times, and the latest yummy treats in the coffee bar.
‘Mummy, it’s open! we hear as little feet come rushing in, way ahead of accompanying adult. Whoops! The toddler has disappeared! He’s in the window having tea with Peter Rabbit! In a few steps, past the counter with a wave, and on to the picture books, displays and little drawing table with crayons and activity sheets... and then the coffee bar with all those treats! There’s hot chocolate, milkshakes, fairy cakes, teddy and dinosaur biscuits, just what they need after a hard day at school or nursery, or a swim at the pool. While grown-ups linger over their coffee and cake, the children are then free to go upstairs and browse the books, find more colouring tables or puzzles. They fill all corners, reading, choosing their next book, talking about their favourites with friends and with us.
We have story times for pre school children on Wednesday afternoons and a Saturday morning story time for all once a month. In holidays we have activity sessions, and (very popular!) ‘Storysoup with Jo’, an exciting mix of stories and fun handicrafts. Jo arrives with huge canvas bags bursting with sparkle and colour, cloth, paper, ribbons, bows – enough to make several Quangle Wangle hats! Last half term she had a Greek myths theme and the children went home bearing their own Pandora’s boxes (ex-shoe boxes!).
The children’s book club
Our children’s bookclub is held every three weeks. We choose the book and try to have a diverse range of genres to appeal to the 8-12 age group of about twelve girls and boys. Popular recent reads have been David Walliams’ Gangsta Granny, Michael Morpurgo’s Dear Olly (one of the ‘My Story’ series), and, most recent of all, The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate. Half the children loved this, the other half thought the lack of action dull. Jack said, ‘it was just two animals talking, so boring’, but then he does like spies, secret missions and drama on the high seas! We have a wall dedicated to the children’s bright, colourful, funny drawings and writings about the most recent book. Another wall is dedicated to thank you letters from school groups who come in throughout the year. And photos of all the authors who have visited, sometimes holding workshops, always inspiring us all, staff and customers. Not many empty walls at White Rose Books!
We love to help young customers choose books. We try to champion the ‘quiet’ books, the quirky, the ones that might get missed – Frank Cottrell Boyce’s Millions and The Unforgotten Coat, Philippa Pearce’s The Little Gentleman, Gill Lewis’ Sky Hawk, Eva Ibbotson’s One Dog and His Boy. At the moment we are promoting Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s delightful Stick Book with a display complete with Stick Man and reviews by staff and a ‘Mum of two boys’.
The children’s passage through the shop is a bit like ours through their childhood. They come in as babies and we help with choice of board books, and the classics every child needs. Like The Very Hungry Caterpillar they munch their way through the picture books and nursery rhymes, and then they are suddenly reading on their own and whizzing through the first chapter books. Next they devour the ‘Rainbow Magic’ and ‘Beast Quest’ series, and we help find alternatives to broaden their reading choices, and then they are away launched into that wonderful world of books. Milly, 9, whom we have known since she was a baby, came bursting in yesterday with the news that she is now considered a ‘free reader’ at school. Suddenly it’s GCSE guides and Career Guides! Not forgetting all the non-local children – Thirsk has caravan sites, holiday parks, and it’s en route for the coast - we provide them with the same experience, help them discover new treasures, activity books for those rainy days, and 101 exciting things to do with sticks!
Two highlights for us yesterday, a busy Saturday: Jake, 7, (a fan of bus books since he was tiny) sang for us, very shyly and sweetly, a song from his school’s Easter show. And, upstairs, there was a little boy bursting to share the fact that mayflies only live for one day. Book knowledge is two-way; Jake often reminds us of the books we found for him when tiny to recommend to the new generation of bus lovers! e.e. cummings said, ‘the world is mud-luscious and puddle-wonderful.’ We would add that it is book-scrumptious too.
The White Rose Bookshop, 79-81 Market Place, Thirsk, North Yorkshire, YO7 1ET. Tel: 01845 524353