As I may have mentioned a few (dozen) times on Twitter a few days ago, it was my birthday recently. The joys of turning 33 were not helped by teaching from 9 am until 8:30 pm on the day. I was determined to do something to celebrate, though, so decided to schedule the next day, when I finished early, as a 'substitute birthday' and visit Tales On Moon Lane, one of my very favourite shops. (Before anyone says it, yes, I know that having a 'substitute birthday' is more like something an MG character would do than a 33-year-old. And I don't care.)
Alice's fabulous post on Village Books Dulwich yesterday morning reminded me that I'd been meaning to check it out, and with my usual grasp of London was rather surprised to realise just how close it was to Tales; then I worked out that Dulwich Books was also nearby and decided to celebrate with a mini-bookshop crawl.
Dulwich Books was my first shop to visit and it was a lovely start to a great afternoon. It's a warm and welcoming place with a great quote about the importance of independent shops the first thing you see as you go in. (I was sure I'd taken a picture of this, but can't find it!) It also has a really interesting selection of books and friendly staff members; it's easy to see why it won Best Independent Bookshop of the Year in the Bookseller's awards back in May.
The first books I saw were the delightful Christmas selections; I was particularly impressed by their pairs and trios of books, tied together to make perfect presents - and even discounted! Emily St. John Mantel and Margaret Atwood, anyone?
I was thrilled to see that some brilliant children's books had pride of place by the till, in prime position to be bought, especially since one of them was The Sleeper And The Spindle by Neil Gaiman and Chris Riddell, a favourite of mine for Gaiman's wonderful writing and Riddell's gorgeous artwork. I asked a staff member for advice on YA/MG recommendations and she was quick to come to my aid, although she mentioned that a colleague of hers was even more knowledgeable about YA. (I need to go back and meet this colleague as this would be some achievement; the lady I spoke with was superb! Anyone whose first recommendations included The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks and Dash and Lily's Book of Dares is doing a great job, in my opinion.) After discussing various YA books and realising that our taste in them was so similar that I'd read or owned most of the ones she was suggesting, we moved onto MG, and a signed copy of Jumblecat caught my eye. It's one I've been thinking about getting for a while and I was assured I wouldn't regret it, so I made that my choice. (I was being sensible and limiting myself to one in each shop before spending got out of control.) On mentioning #IndieAdvent, I was thrilled that the lady serving me knew what it was!
I will definitely go back there; if I was going to purchase a Christmas present for someone else rather than a birthday present for myself I think I'd have to go for one of the sets of books I mentioned earlier. They had three of Enid Blyton's Adventure series - my favourite series of hers, just edging out The Naughtiest Girl - for just £15, so I'd get that for my youngest cousin, who I think would love them. Nostalgia AND a bargain - can't go wrong there!