It’s said that a book is a gift you can open again and again, and no one takes that more literally than Bab, who has made me read Bod on the Beach approximately 17,642 times. But while we all have our favourites with the well-thumbed pages, felt-pen scribbles and cracked spines, there’s nothing quite like getting lost in the world of a brand new book – even if that world extends no further than the home of a pair of mice called Margot and Mo who like to count the sugary constituents of their teatime table, or a brief excursion to the local biscuit factory with Topsy and Tim the absurdly rosy-cheeked twins.
Ordering your kids’ books off Amazon might save you a few pennies but choosing a great new read from a beautiful bookshop is inarguably one of childhood’s greatest pleasures, and a trip to your local independent bookseller can be an excellent tiny-person diversion in itself. Many of London’s indie kids’ bookshops offer in-shop events designed to get little ones excited about literature, from storytime with the author to themed craft sessions, as well as in-store cafes, play areas and reading nooks all cleverly placed to enhance the book-buying experience. Here are seven of the best.
- Telling Tales specialises in well-designed, lavishly illustrated books for thoroughly modern children, plus a few for their adults. Stocked titles include recent releases from independent publishers such as Chronicle Press, Flying Eye Books and Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, and all books are dreamily displayed on clean white tables and shelves for optimum eyeing up and groping (Cambridge Heath 5 mins).
- Tales on Moon Lane stocks a mind-boggling assortment of books for kids of all ages, as well as hosting an exciting programme of in-store events. Owner Tamara MacFarlane also runs can’tputitdown.co.uk, an online platform for independent publishers and authors that aims to highlight and promote books that celebrate diversity, including issues such as gender and disability (Herne Hill 2 mins).
- Opened just last year, Smallprint is the self-styled “home of captivating storytelling, big and bold illustrations and awe-inspiring pop-ups… (and) a collection of lively, unique prints for the nursery and home”, as well as a purveyor of “beautiful things that both the child will enjoy and the adult will appreciate”. The store also hosts regular author-run Story and Craft sessions for young children (Forest Hill 2 mins).
- Somewhere between a shop, events space, cafe and playroom, Pickled Pepper Books is a little piece of heaven for lit-loving youngsters and their adults. The red-benched cafe offers a tranquil spot to peruse the well-presented literary offer over a hot chocolate, and restless toddlers can cook up a storm in the play kitchen. There’s also a programme of weekday activities for preschoolers (Crouch Hill 15 mins).
- Independent bookseller Children’s Books in Chadwell Street, Islington, is a bit of a local secret, with 99% of its books on sale for just £1 each. Its owner, Mark Dunford (who is also the freeholder, hence the bargain price point), has been running the shop in its current home for the last five years. On offer are a variety of titles for all ages, from baby to teen, plus a selection of activity and sticker books (Angel 3 mins).
- Battersea’s The Bright Emporium is a space with many faces. Part of The Bright Group, a leading illustration agency for unique children’s publishing, the site is at once a (brilliant) children’s bookshop, a venue for hire, a gallery and an immersive space offering a packed programme of weekend workshops, including under-5s favourites Messy Toddlers and Storytime Sunday (Clapham Junction 6 mins).
- As if The Alligator’s Mouth‘s jaw-dropping abundance of books wasn’t enough, this welcoming shop boasts a large activity table where kids can type out their selfless act of kindness or bravery on an old-fashioned typewriter. In return their good deeds are pinned onto the shop wall and the deed-doer is rewarded with a goody-bag. Story-time sessions for 2-6s are also held four times a week (Richmond 5 mins).
Bab gets lost between the pages at Telling Tales, London Fields.