Toppsta - Childrens Books – Reviews

Map of the best bookshops for kids

21st January 2019

Best Bookshops for Kids

I was feeling rather nostalgic when I took to Twitter last week to ask 

"Do you have a good, independent children's bookshop near you? (Or at least, an independent bookshop with a good children's section). I'd love to create a list for our readers."

The truth is, my local bookshop in Oxford has recently closed. Though as a city, we are blessed with several bookshops, including Waterstones, Blackwells, a well-stocked Oxfam bookshop and many charity shops selling second-hand books, I missed popping into our local independent bookshop to browse the children's department. And before people start jumping up and down saying we have to support our local stores or we lose them, I really tried to do just that. I haven't bought from Amazon for more than 5 years and I intend to keep it that way.

With all the news about our high streets being under threat, what I hadn't expected was so many joyous recommendations of bookshops for kids, recommended by parents, authors, teachers and more. Oh happy days! My joy was somewhat shortlived, however, as the recommendations poured in. How on earth, I thought, am I going to curate this into a manageable list! Thankfully, there are others who have started this process earlier. My list below is by no means complete and I'm only sorry I couldn't include more. But there are other places where you can search for your nearest children's bookshop. To search by a specific location or by bookshop name, I'd recommend visiting The Bookseller's Association Bookshop Search. Or The Independent Bookshops website has a handy A-Z list and an interactive map (though I understand that they have a list of over 1000 still to be added to the list - how exciting, 1000 MORE places to buy books!).

So this list is by no means exhaustive but just in case you decide to go on a Children's Bookshop tour, these are a list of favourites, as recommended by readers.

1. Rogan's Books, Bedford

26 Castle Lane, Bedford MK40 3US

The bookshop with the most recommendations, was Rogan's Books. After a bit of research online I'm surprised to discover that it opened relatively recently, in October 2015, after the local community got together to persuade local book fanatic Rachael Rogan to open a bookstore. With local residents clubbing together to purchase £1000 of book tokens and classes and events run in a room at the back of the shop, it's a great example of how an independent bookshop can flourish if supported by the local community. 

Photo of bookshop window Rogan's Books

2. David's Bookshop, Letchworth Garden City

Eastcheap, Letchworth SG6 3DE

Established in 1963, David's Bookshop looks like a local institution. It stocks over 50,000 books on two floors and can supply any book in print as well as a well-stocked second-hand book department on two floors. It has what looks like an extremely welcoming cafe and the tripadvisor reviews all mention the friendly staff. This looks like the perfect place to buy a book and chill out. Twitter says, "Knowledgeable friendly staff. Excellent second hand section. Wonderful music and sheet music section. Many events. Links to local community. Fab cafe. It has everything." (@Megatron_46); "@davidsBookshop is great and has lots of events going on." (@picturebookbox).

3. The Book Hive, Norwich

53 London St, Norwich NR2 1HL

The Book Hive describes itself as " independent bookshop housing a unique collection of books in a quirky and stylish setting". Twitter fans said, "The absolutely wonderful @bookhive in Norwich has a great children's section!" (@AlisonHoneybone); "@bookhive in Norwich is a great shop with a fab children's section" (@karlwheel); "We love @bookhive in Norwich" (@buntyhoven). Situated in the heart of Norwich, the bookstore is a beautiful three-storey building and apparently the city's only 'truly independent' bookshop which prides itself on stocking intriguing, hard-to-find titles as well as offering next day delivery to the shop and 48 hour delivery to your home.

The Book Nook

4. Caxton Books, Frinton

37 Connaught Ave, Frinton-on-Sea CO13 9PN

"@caxtonbooks in Frinton have a great children's section" (@LesleyKara); "I agree, Caxton Books has a fabulous range of books for children." (@_GlynisPeters) also recommended by @andyjshepherd. Though not a specialist children's bookshop as such, they have a real children's focus and last year promoted a local children's poetry competition and hosted a Tiger Who Came to Tea party in Independent Bookshop week. Keep an eye on their website for events including author visits, competitions and reading groups.

5. Chicken and Frog Bookshop, Brentwood

Security House, Ongar Road, Brentwood CM15 9AT

As Brentwood's only independent children's bookshop, this has a thriving events programme with a children's bookclub once a month; half term activities; Rhymetime sessions on Tuesdays and Thursdays; handwriting club and Creative Writing sessions too. They also offer a service for schools and can arrange author and illustrator visits and workshops. You can keep up to date with their news via their Twitter and Facebook pages.

Chicken and Frog Bookshop

6. The Alligator's Mouth, Richmond

2a Church Ct, Richmond TW9 1JL

"An independent bookshop for children and discerning adults". This is clearly a bookshop with some impressive author and illustrator links, with quotes from Jacqueline Wilson and drawings by Axel Scheffler and Chris Riddell on their website. They also have a notable collection of awards, including winning Time Out Best Richmond Shop 2016; Nominated for the Children's Bookseller of the Year 2017 & 2018; Caboodle Bookshop of the Month Nov 2017 and more. They have a newsletter to sign up to, staff book reviews, their own awards for illustrated fiction, an active Twitter feed and regular events. This looks like a fun shop to visit!

7. Tales on Moon Lane, Herne Hill

25 Half Moon Lane, Herne Hill, London SE24 9JU

Tales on Moon Lane is well known in the publishing industry, a local institution for the nearby community and has an active Twitter feed, attracting readers across the UK. Originally opened in 2003 under the name "Tell Tales" by Tamara Macfarlane, this shop has gone from strength to strength, supporting authors and illustrators and regularly winning awards, including the Children's Bookseller of the Year in 2008 and 2017. With new initiatives including Moon Lane Ink (a not for profit dedicated to raising equality in children's books) and a new shop opened nearby in SE23, Tales on Moon Lane is committed to books beyond just retail. 

8. Regency Bookshop, Surbiton

45 Victoria Road, Surbiton KT6 4JL

Recommended by @WRDmag on Twitter "Pat in Surbiton is fabulous for recommending children’s books, she also helps me out with books for our competitions, ordering books to arrive the following day. It’s a hugely popular indie bookshop because of their great service." Whilst another Twitter fan says "She’s so good she even set aside a book for my daughter before I went in to ask for it! We love @RegencyBookshop" (@stellaLouisa). As well as a wide range of books available they also sell toys, gifts and audiobooks. 

9. Book Nook Hove, Bright and Hove

1 St John's Place, First Ave, Hove BN3 2FJ

"Book Nook Hove is AMAZING", says illustrator @StevenLenton; "Fantastic children's bookshop" says @fionamchilcott , "Brilliant" says @msZoeArmstrong; "@booknookhove all the way!" says @jo_hendersonn. Though they don't seem to have a website at the moment, their Facebook and Twitter accounts are well maintained with book news, storytime sessions, book recommendations and events. They also won the Children's Bookseller of the Year in 2012, 2015 and 2018! Plus there's rumour of a pirate ship...(unconfirmed)...what's not to love?

10. Steyning Bookshop, West Sussex

106 High St, Steyning BN44 3RD

Describing itself as a small, family-run bookshop in the beautiful Sussex market town of Steyning, this independent bookshop has an added advantage of having Julia Donaldson as a local resident to sign copies of books and attend events. One of their offerings are regular 'Author Suppers' in conjunction with a local cafe which are apparently very popular. First opened in 1984 by Sara and Robin Bowers, this bookshop is situated within a beautiful 18th century house and Sara, an ex-primary school teacher with 3 young children at the time, was perfectly placed to make expert recommendations. With organising school bookfairs, author visits, children's workshops and events, Steyning Bookshop helps bring books to life.

11. Mr B's Emporium, Bath

14-15 John St, Bath BA1 2JL

" A place to discover and talk about books". Mr B's offers a huge number of ways to entice you to read more. You can purchase a bespoke books subscription, come into the shop for a 'Reading Spa' - essentially like a personal shopper where you're given cake and offered a selection of book recommendations according to your tastes; Reading Bundles - 5 books on a theme and of course book vouchers but these can also be emailed, which is great for last minute presents! With regular events, booklists, 5 free bookclubs and more, you'll find it extremely hard to leave empty handed!

12. Chepstow Bookshop, Chepstow

17 St. Mary St, Chepstow, NP16 5EW

The Chepstow Bookshop has been around for 25 years with Matt Taylor taking on the mantle in 2005. They hold regular author events (over 80 every year!) and offer signed copies from previous events and currently have signed copies of Prue by Prue Leith, in stock. With a free book finding service, a flat £2 delivery charge for UK delivery and the ability to send books anywhere in the world, it's the personal touch which makes this bookshop special. You can follow them on Twitter and Facebook.

13. Button & Bear Bookshop, Shrewsbury

28 Castle St, Shrewsbury SY1 2BQ

Again, interestingly, this is a relatively new bookshop, only opened in September 2016, by Louise (who used to work for Booktrust) her husband Jon (around his full-time job elsewhere) and various other members of their family. Their website says that the aim of the bookshop is to provide a wide range of books to inspire parents and children to help them develop a love or reading; whilst also stocking a small number of books around parenting. Like many independent bookstores, they can usually order any book not in stock and post books to you too. Aside from a rather delightful looking coffee shop, they also have a "woodland room", designed to be an outdoor space, indoors. This is where they hold their storytime sessions, birthday parties and book events. 

Button and Bear Bookshop

14. Linghams Books, Heswall

248 Telegraph Road, Heswall, Wirral, Merseyside CH60 7SG

@missschoollr1 says "@linghamsBooks has a great children's and YA selection plus great coffee. Could gladly spend all day in there!". With a wide range of children's titles, author events and school events they're happy to order in any titles either over the phone or online.

15. Tell Tale Books, Padgate

Longbarn Local Centre, Padgate, Warrington WA2 0PZ

Blimey, this bookshop only opened this weekend (19th Jan 2019), what a treat for local residents. With an already impressive Twitter following and recommendations from @_Reading_Rocks_ and @MsLogan23 "the amazing new @Bookstales in Padgate. New children's bookseller with a wealth of knowledge of children's books. CHECK IT OUT." this is clearly one to watch. Not much else to go on at the moment but if you live nearby go and check it out and help them survive on the high street!

Tell Tales Bookshop

16. The White Rose Book Cafe, Thirsk

79-81 Market Pl, Thirsk YO7 1ET

Recommended by @DanSmithAuthor and @CarolSte13 this bookshop has a very personal touch with recommendations for Book of the Week, Children's Choice of the Week, a Book Group and staff recommendations. This looks like a really relaxed, friendly bookshop with a fantastic selection of cakes in the cafe. It was awarded Indie Bookseller North 2014, & was a Regional Finalist in 2018. You can keep up with their events on Twitter and Facebook.

17. Edinburgh Bookshop, Edinburgh

219 Bruntsfield Place, Edinburgh EH10 4DH

This would have been a welcome bookstore during my university days as I lived just around the corner whilst I studied English Literature. The Edinburgh Bookshop was founded in 2007 and is located in the Bruntsfield area. Awarded the Scottish Independent Bookshop of the Year 2018 they specialise in "unusual, intelligent and topical selections" of titles. They also advertise "a regular programme of events from big name authors, writer's workshops and story-time for the under 5's on Thursday and Friday mornings at 9:30 am and a Children's Bookgroup".

Photo of Edinburgh Bookshop

18. Leakey's Second Hand Bookshop, Inverness 

Church St, Greyfriars Hall, Inverness IV1 1EY

Scotland's largest collection of old, rare and second hand books this place has to be seen to be believed! It does have a Children's section but be warned, you will need to search and discover rather than come in with a specific book in mind. I can't find a website or Twitter channel but they do seem to be active on Facebook. Guess you'll just have to make the journey there to check it out!

Again, apologies that this isn't a comprehensive list but hopefully there's at least one bookshop, not too far from you.


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