Children’s Bookstores: Still Standing at Battle’s End

The January 29 edition of the New York Times featured an article about how traditional book publishers and readers are watching Barnes and Noble closely as their last hope. Barnes and Noble, once the behemoth swallowing up the much-loved independent bookseller, is now the much-loved bookshop. In some towns, it may be the only one still standing. Book lovers fear that if it goes under, so too does the book in its traditional form. They will be forced to read digital versions on their Kindle, Nook, iPad, laptop, or even their phone.

There remains another survivor, though it is small in everything but its soul and fan base – the children’s bookstore.

I have had the honor of getting to know a few that are always filled with curious children, their parents, grandparents and teachers. They are staffed with passionate employees who know the best children’s authors and illustrators, and can make flawless recommendations based on age or interests. And these small shops attract the authors and illustrators themselves, who can be found signing books and chatting with their youngest fans.

These treasures are worth mentioning – and honoring – in the discussion about whether the traditional bookstore, and books as we know them, will disappear with the rise of reading digitized versions. Here’s to hoping they are still standing at the battle’s end:

The Bookies (Denver, CO)

More than 30 years ago, browsing the selection of children’s books at The Bookies meant making an appointment and stopping by the owner’s house for a trip into her basement. Today, her retail shop houses more than 100,000 books, and her staff advises parents and teachers about great choices for their children and classrooms. This bookstore has one of the most prolific and high-quality sections of stories that highlight traditions from around the globe. And some of the most highly acclaimed children’s book authors, illustrators and parenting experts can be found signing books, reading their stories and sharing with the Denver children who frequent the aisles searching for their next favorite read.

Barefoot Books (Concord, MA, FAO Schwarz, Manhattan, and Oxford, UK)

Barefoot Books was founded by two mothers who wanted to give their own children books that would not only feed their imagination, but instill respect for diversity and the planet. They publish books that celebrate exotic places and cultures, music and poetry, and gorgeous illustrations. Their studios are brightly colored, comfortable places designed specifically to make children feel at home and happy. Barefoot Books can also be purchased online at

There are also amazing independent bookstores whose popularity continues to grow, in part, because of their collections of children’s books:

Politics and Prose (Washington, DC)

Everyone in the know in the nation’s capitol goes to Politics and Prose if they want great children’s books but do not know what makes one stand out. Not only is it close to the metro, but it maintains a neighborhood coziness that many in the town still crave. And if they have children under five years old, they may plan their Mondays around 10:30 story time. Go to to learn more about their book club, events, and classes.

The Brewster Book Store (Brewster, MA)

A small independent bookstore founded in 1982, it is packed all summer long with the summer crowds who fill the beaches and bike trail of Cape Cod. And then becomes a quiet nook for the locals during the cold, New England winters. Though it has books for everyone, it is best known for its wonderful children’s section, steady flow of book signings (many great authors and illustrators have made the Cape their year-long home), and even visits from your child’s favorite book characters. Go to to plan your summer book-stop.

The 57th Street Bookstore (Chicago, IL)

A favorite in Hyde Park, it has a great children’s section and a reputation for being very kid-friendly. They even ask their frequent young customers to review new-releases, giving the kids the book for free if they write a review, which then gets posted in the store for other kids and parents to read while making their purchasing decisions. Go to to check it out.

So, for the real book lovers who hold out hope that they will always be able to turn the crisp paper page of a good book, your fate does not lie in Barnes and Noble alone. Keep an eye on the children and where they’re finding their next memorable read.

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