Shop these independent stores for personal recommendations and great family fun
By Ronna Mandel
If you only shop online, you’re missing out on input from some of our city’s most enthusiastic and knowledgeable kid-lit experts. To find bookstores that felt “just right” for this roundup, I channeled Goldilocks and made tracks for the independents – the magical, privately owned bookstores located throughout Los Angeles.
Close to the beach, this South Bay bookstore has a thriving kids’ department with inviting beanbag chairs. The staff is passionate about books, and co-owner Margot Farris is proud of the personal touch Pages provides. There’s a summer book club to encourage reading over those lazy hazy days, and a children’s book-of-the month club customized for your family’s voracious readers. Kids will love the carefully curated selection of books for infants through young adults, and parents will appreciate the friendly atmosphere and free gift-wrapping.
Vroman’s has kept customers satisfied for almost 118 years. Its expansive children’s book department is packed with books, toys and games for all ages. There are at least four children’s-author events monthly, craft events, an annual bookmark contest in January and Kids Week in July. The Young Readers League is a book club with themed activities surrounding a specific book, and the store also gives school tours.
In neighboring La Cañada, visitors to JPL or Descanso Gardens should head to this beautiful bookstore with its landmark clock tower. The buzz about its annual Mother-Daughter Book Party spearheaded by children’s book buyer Catherine Linka keeps growing. Held every January, this inspiring afternoon gets girls excited about reading as they listen to and chat with authors about their novels. Flintridge Bookstore brings in authors for readings and hosts a holiday shopping night and yearly Imagination Contest. It’s got an Advanced Readers Club, a co-ed group for La Crescenta and La Cañada 5th and 6th graders, and a Teen Advisory Board whose members opine on their latest pre-publication fiction finds
Owner Filis Winthrop’s love of her children’s department is apparent, as half of this store is dedicated to kids’ books (with its YA section near the grown-up area). Tall black bookcases are filled with pop-ups, board and picture books, and topped by oversized stuffed animals. You’ll find staff at neighboring schools holding book fairs and relishing their role in the community. Chevalier’s is informal, and likes it that way. The highly subscribed Grandparents Book Club allows out-of-town grandparents to register their grandchildren, with Chevalier’s keeping track of the children’s ages and interests and sending them a book monthly. Watch for their Million Word Book Club where kids can win prizes, have their photos on display and receive kudos for reading accomplishments.
Serving West L.A. for almost 27 years, CBW’s 2,200 square feet of selling space is paradise on Pico. With helpful staff who know their stuff, it’s hard to walk out empty-handed. The store hosts 18 to 24 author events annually, “drawing fans from all over Los Angeles county and beyond,” says owner Sharon Hearn. From J.K. Rowling to Mary Pope Osborne, CBW’s had them all. Staff picks are updated monthly online and, like at most of the bookstores covered, shelf-talkers feature reviews along with books in the shop. Whether running author visit-related contests or providing recycled books to more than 200 under-served schools and organizations across the city, CBW is committed to customers and community. Check out the Front Window Art Gallery full of students’ book-inspired artwork, changing monthly.
Diesel: Brentwood Country Mart, 225 26th Street, Ste. 33, Santa Monica; and Malibu Country Mart, 23410 Civic Center Way, Ste. A-3, Malibu; 310-456-9961; www.dieselbookstore.com.
“There is nothing that beats the experience of parents sharing books with their children, the building of families, and the experience of a child reading a book on their own,” says John Evans, Diesel’s co-owner. Both stores support authors with readings and signings every couple of months. They’re adding summer weekend events where local authors, musicians and community figures participate in interactive story time. The stores are involved in book nights, school fairs and educational events, and stocked with local schools’ reading lists. A nice touch is the Staff Picks shelves, where parents and kids can find recommended reads. The Malibu store’s cozy Kids’ Corner is a place where children can spread out their choices, sit and read, and feel comfortable to stay a while.
A few times a year, Storyopolis brings in fantastic authors, most of them local, says owner Lori Abramowitz. Recently the store invited 6-year-old Dylan Siegel, who wrote a book about his best friend Jonah’s glycogen storage disease. Chelsea Clinton attended to film the reading for “Making a Difference” on MSNBC. Storyopolis, known for exquisite book baskets, also offers Arts & Crafts on Saturdays twice a month, providing snacks and supplies, and encouraging creativity. It boasts a book-of-the-month club, an unusual selection of gift options, a Summer Book Club for 5- to 10-year-olds and a weekly Reading Night.
If you’re hoping to make your next children’s book purchase “just right,” consider these bookstores. Check websites for schedules, suggested ages and to sign up for e-newsletters.
Ronna Mandel is a former Associate Editor of L.A. Parent and the mother of two children. Find her reviews of children’s books at www.GoodReadsWithRonna.com.