I like bookstores as much as I like libraries. And children’s bookstores even more. If paradise exists I want it to have a children’s bookstore.
In the US, too few are still in business. All owe their success to a good location in a supportive community but more often to the owner’s tireless hard work. In my opinion, few businesses bring more humanity to a street than a bookstore.
Yesterday afternoon, I visited The Children’s Cellar in Waterville. Waterville is home to Colby College, one of the three liberal art colleges of Maine. Waterville is also a typical American small town where residents work hard at maintaining a vibrant downtown.
It had rained all day long, and the bookstore was quiet when I entered. Two customers were browsing through the packed aisles. The wooden floor creaked just right under my pair of flats and the smell of paper made my heart beat faster.
I spotted the latest Sarah Dessen and chose it for my daughter – a die-hard fan since the ripe age of ten years old. I saw Rick Riordan‘s books and remembered with nostalgia the time where my son read them faster than the prolific author could write them. There was a shelf dedicated to Maine authors and books about Maine. And countless picture books, lovingly arranged so young kids could dream upon them.
There was a photograph of a woman with Neil Gaiman. And it was signed by the author. The woman on the picture stood behind the counter. She could only be the owner. My heart beat even faster.
I approached her and asked if she had the latest Tommy Greenwald. I had bumped into the writer at a small local festival, but he had sold every single copy of his books. Don’t you wish it happened to you, too? I wanted his recent book because a Maine camp that my kids attended inspired the story.
“I ordered more copies,” the book owner told me.
And from there we started a lively conversation about books and authors and bookshops and Maine. She knew the owner of Hicklebee’s, one of the few children’s bookstores in California. Yes, she had met Neil Gaiman. And yes, I could leave a copy of my novel Trapped in Paris.
There is a war between Amazon and the traditional publishing world. There is truce between independently and traditionally published authors.
I like to think of peace between writers and booksellers.
On my way back home I passed a large Barnes and Noble. Since Borders has closed, its former rival B&N is trying hard to position itself as a ‘good guy.’ But I remember the times when small bookshops also closed when Barnes and Noble arrived in town.
The rain was now only a drizzle, yet my husband suggested buying a movie for a cozy night at the cabin. We agreed on a couple of French and American movies. But I didn’t go to the book section.
For some reason the same books stuck in their big business-looking displays didn’t strike me as inviting as their twins waiting for me on a personalized table in a crammed bookstore.