Summer at the Bookshop: it started with a sketch…

In honour of bookselling summers gone by (and fellow booksellers), I am re-posting an edited version of a blog article that I originally wrote for when I was working for Hughes and Hughes a few years ago. It was first posted on 31 May 2012 in the now discontinued Booksellers’ blog column. The post was inspired by the fun we had putting together a summer themed table at the front of the shop. The book recommendations from 2012 still stand I think, so if you are looking for ideas for the kids then read on…

If anyone had told me twenty years ago, that bookselling would involve playing with bits of coloured paper and cotton wool; I would have raised a gently inquiring eyebrow. These days I am more experienced in such creative matters. Indeed, there are times when it feels less like working in a bookshop and more like being back in primary school. Thank heavens for all of those Blue Peter watching years when I was being inspired by Val’s and John’s handiwork.

Like most creations, our summer themed table began with the merest sketch of an idea. The tricky part is usually translating the idea into 3D reality (and serving customers at the same time). That was where the cotton wool came into play as we attempted to create a model of an ice-cream cone (complete with flake) for our shop front display table. With the addition of yellow wrapping paper and some crepe paper in a lovely shade of blue, we were well on the way to bringing the seaside to a Dundrum shop floor.

The table was truly a joint effort: Claire, Maeve and Michelle were responsible for some very bijou beach huts and a shoal of little Nemos. And did I mention the fierce-looking pirates? However, the piece de resistance was Andrew’s larger than life ice-cream cone, which dominates the table, inviting thoughts of summer treats. Don’s original idea was very well realised by the team and we were very pleased with ourselves (she said modestly).

Summer Table

Our rather splendid summer scene

We have all had a great deal of fun cutting out shapes, but the serious purpose was obviously to make something a little more eye-catching than basic merchandising. We filled the table with stock aimed at parents and children, with a mixture of new summer titles, colouring and activity books and toys. We arranged some bright and cheerful gardening gear for kids, which include hats and gloves for any future ‘Bloom’ exhibitors out there. When I saw the little ‘Bug House’, I was reminded of Dick King-Smith’s enchanting ‘Sophie’ books. For anyone not familiar with the series, the plot of the first novel saw Sophie earnestly collecting garden bugs of all shapes and sizes for her mini farm. Not all parents would appreciate that one I suppose…

For parents travelling with younger children, sticker, activity and colouring books are usually a good idea. For example, the Airport Colouring Book will peacefully while away the inevitable waiting time. If not, there is always Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler to rely upon, with for instance the Tales from Acorn Wood Activity Book.

Usborne Books had the bright idea of bringing out a book made up of holiday postcards for children to colour. There’s no excuse for anyone not to send cards home to the grandparents then! We also have plenty of ideas for summer holiday reading. Gerry Boland’s new Marco adventure, Marco: Master of Disguise (O’Brien Press) is completely charming. Marco is an escaped tea drinking grizzly bear who is hiding out from the zoo authorities. Áine McGuiness’ illustrations are wonderful; you could just see yourself giving a home to a grizzly like Marco (always assuming that you had enough tea bags).

For children’s holiday reads, then look no further than to the winners of the CBI Book Awards, announced recently. For older readers, Celine Kiernan’s Into the Grey is a gripping and atmospheric story. Celine received the double whammy of the Book of the Year Award and the Children’s Choice Award. I’ll hazard a guess at which award she was most pleased to win.

At the other end of the reading scale, his delightful picture book Stuck will no doubt appeal to the many Oliver Jeffers fans around. Stuck won the ‘Honour Award’ for Illustration, beating off stiff competition. Jeffers’ new book, The Hueys in the New Jumper has recently hit the bookshelves, which promises to be another bestseller. I want a Huey of my own now please (complete with orange jumper). Mark O’Sullivan won the Judges’ ‘Special Award’, for My Dad is 10 Years Old; Paula Leyden won the Eilís Dillon Award for The Butterfly Heart, based on her own experiences of growing up in Zambia. Siobhán Parkinson had two titles in the shortlist and won the ‘Honour Award’ for Fiction with Maitriόisce, which explored five generations of a family. Last but by no means least, Roddy Doyle was lucky enough to win the schools’ ‘Shadowing Award’ for A Greyhound of a Girl, which is now out in paperback just in time for the holidays.

Congratulations to all of the winners mentioned above. I hope I have given a few useful ideas for the holiday season, but if you need a bit of help choosing, just pop in and ask a bookseller.

I hope the post has inspired you to either pop into a real bookshop for your children’s summer reads, or to grab scissors and paper and have some creative fun during the holidays! The Bookworm read A Greyhound of a Girl when it first came out and thoroughly enjoyed it and going a little further back, she was a firm Sophie fan. If you’ve never met Dick King-Smith’s feisty heroine then do give her adventures a read.

Picture credit: me (unfortunately I’ve lost the original jpeg file so the quality isn’t great) and also used on the blog post.