Library and Information Association of New Zealand Aotearoa
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The Children's Bookshop: Wellington's Reading Warriors

John and Ruth from The Children’s Bookshop have supported LIANZA’s Children’s and Young Adult’s Awards for years, and have been the financial sponsors of our Young Adult Fiction Award since 2010. Without their help we wouldn’t be able to offer the winner of the Young Adult Fiction Award a cash prize, so their support means a lot to both LIANZA and the writers who enter our children’s book awards. I wanted to meet with them to see how they got started with their bookshop, and John was more than happy to answer to my questions.


LIANZA: How long have you owned the bookshop?


John: We started the business 23 years ago in a much smaller shop in the same Plaza we are in now – we have moved twice since, doubling our size each time – we have been in our current site for 13 years.


LIANZA: That’s pretty incredible. Running a small business can be really difficult and many fail in the first 5 years.  How did you decide to open a bookshop dedicated to children’s books?


John: There was no children’s bookshop in Wellington and we saw a place for one. We were prepared to take a chance, work hard, and see if we could make a go of it. We had an exit plan for getting out after 2 years if it didn’t work, but within 6 months of opening we knew it was going to succeed.


LIANZA: I love that you knew right away. Good intuition John! So, what’s your personal favourite children’s book?


John: My favourite is The Silver Sword by Ian Serrallier, and Ruth loves The Runaway Settlers by Elsie Locke.


LIANZA: Gosh! I haven’t read either but I’ll have to add them to my list! If you could meet one character from a children’s book, who would it be?


John: Danny’s Dad from Danny the Champion of the World – he was a top bloke and a great Dad.


LIANZ:: You must love being surrounded by incredible books all day – what would you say is the best part of running your own bookshop? 


John: We get to see new products every day – and children’s books are constantly wonderful and give us endless pleasure. We also get to meet really nice people as customers, we meet many inspiring librarians, and we have a number of really close friends amongst other book people – authors, publishers, other booksellers. We are also blessed with having had great staff over the years – passionate readers and great advisors for customers.


LIANZA: Your shop is such a part of the community – it’s so good to hear that you’ve created a tight network of friends, authors, and of course, librarians! Often staff can be a major challenge, so it’s awesome to hear you have a loyal crew. What are some of the other challenges?


John: There are many, but all are related to running a busy retail store. For every challenge there is an opportunity, and we are very pro-active marketers.


LIANZA: I think having that kind of positive attitude can make any challenge easier to tackle, John! So tell me, what are your most popular books? What are kids reading these days?


John: The backlist is king for us – so anything by Roald Dahl, Lynley Dodd, Michael Morpurgo, Margaret Mahy, JK Rowling. Our best selling books include “The Noisy Book” by Soledad Bravi and “The Wonky Donkey” by Craig Smith and Katz Cowley.


LIANZA: How do you feel about NZ writers of children’s books? Are they as good as popular overseas writers and illustrators?


John: We area small market but our authors and illustrators are amongst the best – Margaret Mahy, Joy Cowley and Lynley Dodd are famous overseas, but there are many writers who tell our stories to our children. They may not be international names but the likes of Fleur Beale, David Hill and Gavin Bishop are stars in their own country, and we have a new generation of people like Juliette MacIver and Ruth Paul rising to the top.


LIANZA: How did you become sponsors of the LIANZA Children’s Book Awards?


John: We were at the ceremony in 2010 when Tania Roxborogh won the Young Adult Fiction Award. It was a new category and LIANZA’s budget at the time didn’t stretch to matching the prize money offered to the winners of the established awards. We make a considerable effort to champion New Zealand YA authors, and are huge supporters of libraries ( they create readers and we need readers) so our sponsorship seemed a natural fit. We had a quiet word with the previous awards administrator Wendy Walker and she accepted our offer.  So it continues.


LIANZA: Can you tell me about a memorable moment in your bookshop?


John: The golden moments come all the time when we are asked to help non-readers or reluctant readers, and we are told later that our advice was key to getting them reading. It happens quite often, but it is always very satisfying, even moving, to know we did that.


It’s moving to hear how invested John and Ruth are in turning Kiwi kids into lifelong readers, which isn’t the kind of customer service you’ll get from the big chain bookstores. If you’re looking for children’s books, or you need some advice on books for your kids, then get yourself down to The Children’s Bookshop.



John McIntyre

The Children's Bookshop

Shop 26 Kilbirnie Plaza


Wellington 6022


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