After my post listing my favourite books for babies and toddlers, I received innumerable queries. The overwhelming concern was that many of the books on my list could not be found on the usual online shopping sites.
How does one get these books, everyone asked.
My personal recommendation is that you go out and make friends with a Book-Genie (an indie bookseller). Seriously, a Book-Genie is an important presence in the life of every parent, grandparent, or indeed, any person wanting to spread the joy of books. Think of all the books you’ll want to buy for the little ones in your life. Think of all the return gifts you’ll have to provide at your children’s birthday parties. Books by Indian publishers are simply unbeatable as gifts for children.
To start with, this article from Scroll mentions the best standalone Children’s Bookstores spread across several Indian cities. It’s a great list from Sayoni Basu, Director & Primary Platypus at children’s publishing house, Duckbill Books. What Sayoni doesn’t know about creating and selling children’s books would fit in the dimple on an ant’s knee (with some room to spare!!!).
Cities like Chennai and Calcutta don’t find a mention in the article, so if there’s a gem of a bookstore that you know of, please do add the name in the comments section.
Building a relationship with a Book-Genie is a fun-filled process. Visit often to get a feel of the children’s book selection at the stores. Make friends with the staff and ask for their personal recommendations. Indie booksellers almost always spend a great deal of time reading the books in their store.
Whatever else you do, please don’t browse through their selection and then go home to order the books online at a discount. This is just plain unacceptable. Plus it’s never wise to incur the displeasure of a Genie. You could well end up as a warty toad or a puff of smoke somewhere near the shelves of Fantasy Fiction!
Indie booksellers have to pay huge rentals and they need all the support and encouragement we can give. Besides, there’s nothing to beat the feel of actually browsing through a book before making your choice.
Once you become a regular customer, bookstores are very good about going that extra mile to accommodate your requests. Thirty books for a birthday party? No problem! Same week delivery of a book you specially want? Done! Orders are placed just for you, and that’s not all — the books will even reach you via people passing by their store, or your house. The favours that booksellers will do for a book-lover are amazing!
As a preferred customer, in addition to all of the above, I’ve also been treated to their Amma’s home-cooked meals. And slices of still-warm-from-the-oven cake to be enjoyed in a quiet corner far away from the books.
If you live in a city where you cannot find a Book-Genie, perhaps you could try the online shopping services provided by children’s book publishers themselves. You could check out the links provided in this informative article in Little Black Book.
Children’s bookstores recommended by Readers:
In KOCHI: Circuit Creative. (Suggested by Smitha Nair, owner of Marigold Creative Children’s Library)