Thursday, 3 December 2020

Indie Advent: Jim Dean On Tales On Moon Lane

I should declare here that I'm biased, because I spent a wonderful couple of years working for Tales On Moon Lane running their Teens On Moon Lane website, but I was madly in love with the shop from the first moment I walked in, so it was the obvious choice. 

For me, the best part about any part of a bookshop is the staff, and absolutely every Tales staff member, past and present, has an absolutely incredible knowledge of children's and YA books and a real love of discussing them with customers. Back when I was working for them, I'd go there pretty much every week to pick up post and discuss books and have had hundreds of wonderful recommendations over the years. A couple of highlights - first, Kate DiCamillo and KG Campbell's delightful illustrated MG Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures, recommended to me by my friend Jen Rose Bell - amazing MG author who I first met when she worked for Foyles, and got to know better over so many great conversations at Tales. (Which lead to the formation of one of my favourite ever pub quiz teams.) The friendship between cynical Flora and superpowered squirrel Ulysses is one of my absolute favourite relationships in children's books.

Second, Wed Wabbit by Lissa Evans, which I'd seen a couple of times and was already interested in but which Tereze Brikmane hand-sold me in a matter of moments with her phenomenal enthusiasm for it. She told me she was sure it would become a favourite of mine, and she was absolutely right. This quest story, about an angry girl and her annoying cousin trying to escape a bizarre world, is incredibly inventive and has two pitch-perfect character arcs for Fidge and Graham. Other staff members over the years like Jo, Kath, Julia, Lucy, and of course shop owner Tamara Macfarlane, have always been amazing people to talk to about books.

In addition to the superb booksellers, I also love the way the shop looks. As so many bookshops are, it's relatively small, but the staff use the space so incredibly well, creating gorgeous displays, beautiful tables, and - of course - the incredible windows which always capture the attention of potential customers. I don't think anyone could possibly walk past a shop looking as inviting as Sophy Henn's display does in the below tweet and NOT want to walk in! 

And in addition to the books, there's a small but perfectly curated selection of other things they sell, from stationery to cuddly toys. Moontrug The Mouse, named after the Twitter handle of my friend - and outstanding MG author - Abi Elphinstone, is maybe my absolute favourite non-bookish bookshop purchase ever - so cute! 

While they're delighted to have reopened, they're aware that not everyone's currently comfortable shopping with others, and they're offering private browsing slots on Sundays at the moment - such a great idea. And, of course, you can also order from them online if that's better for you. 

Sadly, having recently moved to the USA, it'll be a while before I get back to Tales! But if I was there, I'd be asking one of their wonderful booksellers for a recommendation for myself, and I'd also be buying several copies of Kacen Callender's gorgeous MG novel King And The Dragonflies as presents. This is a stunning book about grief, abuse, homophobia, and finding your identity. Callender is always wonderful and they bring their characters to life so, so vividly here. This is one that I know a lot of my MG-reading friends will adore.

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