It’s hard to choose from all the brilliant independent bookshops out there, but today my three cheers go to the Seven Stories bookshop, in Newcastle Upon Tyne.
It’s blessed with a few obvious advantages: being attached to a world-class collection of children’s book manuscripts and illustrations is the glaring one, but there are plenty of others. It has loads of space and light, reflecting from the Ouseburn outside through the big windows (on a good day). The neighbours include the Cluny pub and a friendly urban farm. It has coffee, in a cosy space populated by cuddly animals. No-one bats an eyelid when a giant rabbit or a lion-tamer wanders through, that’s normal.
But the true highlight is the people. My daughter’s dilemma, “I’ve read everything Jacqueline Wilson has ever written, what next?” was lucky to find Sharleene, a woman who appears to have read every book on her shelves. She can expertly divine a shy reader’s interests, then recommend with inspired precision. We emerge every visit with a bag full of diverse and exciting stories that we’d never have discovered by ourselves.
And it’s not just in the 9-12’s section. All the others, too, have their experts who are full of passion for their books.
The Seven Stories bookshop has introduced us to some of the brilliant writing for children that falls outside the spotlight of the bestseller lists, and in a world of self-scan checkouts, having something hand-picked just for you is a rare wonder.