Booksellers play an important role in connecting children to great literature and I am always amazed at how widely read they are and their depth of knowledge on new and classic publications. This week, Holly Cooper, from Petrach’s Book Shop, shares her experience in matching books to readers and suggests some personal and popular favourites.
A certain look appears on the faces of children as they enter a bookshop. It’s a look that will never stop bringing me joy, no matter how many years I spend behind the counter. It’s a look of awe, of anticipation, of elation. It never fails to make a bookseller smile, because we know that wherever they may be in their short yet full-to-the-brim lives, there will be a book just for them.
There are the babies, who, admittedly, care more about how the book tastes than the contents. Their parents look at us apologetically, but of course we don’t mind: ingestion of books still counts whether they’re being read or being eaten.
Then there’s the toddlers, whose wide little eyes light up at the sight of a book all about their latest obsession: ballerinas, tractors, dinosaurs, farts. This look is often followed up by one of desperation, claiming that this one book is all they’ve ever wanted in their entire lives. Yes, even more than that Lego set they saw earlier.
There are the kids who are new to reading independently, who may still hesitate over the tricky words, but are learning that their imagination is their most powerful tool. These children are discovering that books will always be among their most treasured friends.
There are the schoolkids who come in with their own savings, so excited to be able to buy a book all of their own with the money they earned mowing mum and dad’s lawn. They hand over their crumpled $20 note, and in that moment, that book becomes the first thing that’s properly theirs.
Then there are the young adults, who have big futures and even bigger emotions. Don’t we all remember the feeling of being so utterly convinced that our favourite authors were the only ones to really understand us? Of course, we now take comfort knowing that every emotion we’ve ever felt has been felt and written about by someone before.
Some personal favourites:
All of the Factors Why I love Tractors by Davina Bell, Harper Collins.
For younger children this is a fabulous rhyming story with glorious illustrations, an absolute go-to for reading aloud to kids.
Cat on the Run by Aaron Blabey, Scholastic Australia.
Perfect for lower primary from the author of the amazing Bad Guys series, the first in a brand new series that is just as funny as Bad Guys but with the Cat of Death as the central character. What’s not to love?
Millie Mak the Maker by Alice Pung, Harper Collins.
Targeting upper primary readers, this is a beautiful story from one of Australia’s most loved authors. Mille Mak has a superpower - she can turn everyday things into something new!
Tomorrow When the War Began by John Marsden, Pan Macmillan.
For young adult readers this is an oldie but a goodie and one my personal favourites. A brilliant action-packed start to a series that has remained in print for over thirty years, and for good reason.
Perhaps, as children, we don’t understand how the trajectory of our lives will be mapped out by the books we read. They become our secrets, our confidantes, and our homes. These books will always fill us with a sense of nostalgia when we re-crack those spines and breathe in their glorious old book mustiness.
So here’s to you, kids. May you always find wonder within the pages of books, and may you all continue to bring joy to those of us behind the counter. What a magical journey you have ahead of you.
Bookseller and lifelong bookworm.
Petrachs' Book Shop: https://www.petrarchs.com.au/
Editor’s note: Love Your Bookshop Day is on the horizon, celebrated this year on Saturday October 7. Head to a bookshop near you and tap into the wealth of knowledge and experience booksellers have to help connect young readers to great books. Keep bookshops alive!