Based in the beautiful Scottish Borders village of St Boswells, The Main Street Trading Company has a thriving children’s book section. Books for Keeps invited co-owner Ros de la Hey to share some of her recommendations.
The children’s department should be at the heart of any bookshop – where else is the next generation going to discover the joys of books and reading. Having worked at Bloomsbury Children’s Books for over thirteen years, I have a natural bias which I hope is obvious from our shop layout. It’s incredibly important to be able to see when your customers need help; often as not adults are buying for children who may not be their own (‘He’s my Godson, I think he may be six or perhaps seven. No, I have no idea what he likes reading…’)
‘It’s odd, you don’t seem to have many Julia Donaldson books, but there’s masses of stuff I’ve not seen before.’
Well yes, we do of course stock the hugely popular Julia Donaldson, but our priority is also to introduce the huge array of talent in picture books that you might not see wall to wall in WH Smith. Ask a customer to just sit (on our mini chairs in the children’s section) and read The Runaway Dinner by Allan Ahlberg and hear them giggle to themselves.
Summer holidays often mean long car journeys. The tricky thing is to find an audio book that will have broad appeal across the age ranges. As parent to three (ranging from 5 -10 years-old) without doubt our most contented journeys have been experienced while listening to the inimitable David Tennant reading Cressida Cowell’s ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ series. Needless to say, there is great excitement among customers that Cressida Cowell will be doing an event at the shop for the launch of her next book in the series. Another audio favourite is Ian McKellen’s masterful voicing of Michelle Paver’s Wolf Brother.
‘My ten-year-old just won’t pick up a book.’
Had you thought of Alex Rider in graphic novel or indeed discovered Barrington Stoke’s books for HI/LO readers? It amazes me how many people (including teachers) have never heard of this Edinburgh based publisher who commission big names (Malorie Blackman, Alan Gibbons, Keith Gray amongst others) to write books aimed at the reluctant reading or dyslexic market. Reading should be firmly associated with fun and adventure, not hard work.
Nosy Crow is another small publisher who is doing great things for the reluctant or fledgling reader with its ‘Mega Mash up’ series. Part comic strip, part colouring in book, wholly creative, they are aimed at boys (please can we have some for girls next) covering monsters, aliens, Romans and mad scientists – they really work and customers are coming back for more. For the more confident young reader, it’s hard to match One Dog and His Boy by the inimitable Eva Ibbotson – once you’ve got them hooked on this, it’s only a short step to Journey to the River Sea, her Carnegie-winning modern classic.
‘It’s so hard to know what teenagers might like reading.’
Young adult books can often be a sticking point – ours are carefully placed outside the children’s department, but opposite the till so we can spot those puzzled grown ups who don’t know where to begin. A Gathering Light by Jennifer Donnelly won the Carnegie Medal about ten years ago so is perhaps less well known to contemporary 13-year-olds. In a perfect world, I persuade mother and daughter to read this wonderful coming of age story together. The hardback of her second young adult novel, Revolution, is less of a crossover, but proved to be hugely popular last Christmas.
A relative newcomer who has taken the young adult market and book prizes by storm is Patrick Ness – this Saturday past gave me the opportunity to introduce this author to two very well read young men. Their family visits from London about four times a year and I can’t wait for their next trip to hear how they got on with A Monster Calls, and to put a copy of The Knife of Never Letting Go into their hands.
I can’t finish this article without mention of the irreplaceable Michael Morpurgo. We have been lucky enough to host two events with him since opening the shop, the second of which, held in our barn, was easily the most magical children’s event we have done. It was a beautiful summer’s evening with over 150 excited children and adults (some of whom even came without the cover of children) and a group of teachers and librarians who travelled over an hour just to hear him. We also sell masses of Michael’s audio books, but beware parents! You need to be able to see through your tears to drive!
The Mainstreet Trading Company,
Main Street, St Boswells, Scottish Borders TD6 0AT
Tel: 01835 824 087
The Runaway Dinner by Allan Ahlberg, ill. Bruce Ingman, Walker, 978 1 4063 0549 4, £5.99 pbk
A Hero’s Guide to Deadly Dragons by Cressida Cowell, Hodder ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ series, audio CD read by David Tennant, 978 1 8445 6980 9, £13.99
Wolf Brother by Michelle Paver, Orion ‘Chronicles of Ancient Darkness’ series, audio CD read by Ian McKellen, 978 0 7528 6803 5, £16.99
Point Blanc: The Graphic Novel by Anthony Horowitz, Antony Johnston, Kanako and Yuzuru, Walker ‘Alex Rider’ series, 978 1 8442 8112 1, £8.99 pbk
The Return of Johnny Kemp by Keith Gray, Barrington Stoke, 978 1 8429 9614 0, £5.99 pbk
Romans v Dinosaurs on Mars by Tim Wesson & Nikalas Catlow, Nosy Crow ‘Mega Mash-Up’ series, 978 0 8576 3001 8, £4.99 pbk
One Dog and His Boy by Eva Ibbotson, ill. Sharon Rentta, Marion Lloyd Books, 9781 4071 2423 0, £10.99 hbk
Journey to the River Sea, by Eva Ibbotson, Macmillan, 978 0 3305 3881 7, £6.99 pbk
A Gathering Light by Jennifer Donnelly, Bloomsbury, 978 0 7475 7063 9, £6.99 pbk
Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly, Bloomsbury, 978 1 4088 0152 9, £10.99 hbk
A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, Siobhan Dowd, ill Jim Kay, Walker, 978 1 4063 1152 5, £12.99 hbk
The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness, Walker ‘Chaos Walking’ series, 978 1 4063 2075 6, £7.99 pbk
Little Manfred by Michael Morpurgo, HarperCollins, 978 0 0073 3966 2, £12.99 hbk