Welcome to the blog of the Tasmanian branch of the Children's Book Council of Australia!

Saturday 14 July 2018

Lift the flap and discover a magical staircase

Jennie has recently returned from her travels and some wonderful book and bookshop experiences. Join her adventures at La Alhambra in Granada and the Livrario Lello in Porto.

First up, the bookshop industry is alive and very healthy in southern Europe. A similar situation was reported on my last sojourn ('Spot'light on Italy) and we visited many bookshops on my recent trip to southern Spain and Portugal. Spanish tourist publications for children were of particular note - with books on major sites translated into different languages with highly engaging formats, illustrations and information for children (and elders :-) to buy as a memento to take home.

View of Sierra Nevada from La Alhanbra
A visit to the breathtakingly beautiful La Alhambra, perched on a rocky outcrop overlooking Granada in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada (snowcapped) mountains shaped our itinerary for Andalucia and we were very impressed with the range of books on this historic site, and couldn't resist a lift the flap version to
add to the oh-so-small suitcase. 📕
Double page spread of
La Alcazaba (the fortress)

A visit to the Livraria Lello in Porto, Portugal, ranked as one of the top ten bookstores in the world, was an amazing experience in all ways. First up, you can't just walk in - there are too many people. Head next door to buy a ticket, leave your bag in a locker and then queue for entry. Fight your way through the crowds to look at books and.... climb the magical staircase. Famed for inspiring J. K. Rowling in her design of the moving staircase in
Hogwarts. But don't be fooled - this beautiful staircase is not wooden, but made of plaster and carefully hand coloured and painted to look like wood - I got the inside story during a visit to the Palacia da Bolsa where plaster is used to simulate wood, marble and stonework - very convincingly. This is an age-old Portuguese craft.

But I meander - a picture or two is worth a thousand words. Check out the staircase, stained glass ceiling and the people!

And in spite of the crowds, the service was superb. The Lello bookshop could not meet my search for a Portuguese edition of Spot, (stay tuned for that story later in the year) but they had many other translations of quality writers in the field - Australian, English and American. The sales assistant  morphed into a manager and we discussed the local trade and she shared a number of works from Portuguese writers and illustrators including some award winners from recent Bologna trade fairs. Her favourite was Ana Luisa Carapinheiro and there is an interesting interview to read to find out about this young and successful Portuguese author.

Every bookshop we entered had a children's section, some  extremely large and decked out as engaging reading spaces with sunken floors and bright colours. Most had the typical cheaper productions of fairy tales and classics and series fiction targeting primary age students, but there was always more - in English and Portuguese - displayed appealingly and begging to be read. The morbid, macabre and dangerous themes are just as popular with teen readers as they are in Australia.

One reason for the fairytales was the fact that Hans Christian Andersen frequented Andalucia and there is a very 'serious' bronze statue in Malaga - with a cheeky ugly duckling peeking out of his briefcase.

Jennie Bales
Dabbles in books, blogs and book depositories (AKA libraries)


  1. Jennie, great to have you back in Tasmanian after your amazing bookish experiences. It is gratifying to know that books are still 'alive and well', appreciated and celebrated throughout the world, especially the classics.

  2. I visited the Libreria Acqua Alta in Venice , which is listed as a library, but is really a bookstore. Amazing to see these spaces in reality