It is always a joy to hear about a new children’s bookshop opening and watching, from afar, all the exciting things they are doing around children’s books. This March, The Alligator’s Mouth opened in Richmond, and is owned by Tony and Margaret, both former booksellers at The Lion and the Unicorn, which closed a couple of years ago. It seems such an amazing place with so much going on. I feel quite jealous of Richmond people, I have to say!
I wonder what books the staff will be recommending to those roaming the shelves in search of presents for children young and old, and adults too. I am therefore delighted that Tony had agreed to share five books which he thinks will make fabulous Christmas presents with us today:
Joie de Livre: Five Favourites for Christmas
by Tony West
A tree changing through the seasons has been done before, for sure, but this book is something special. Britta Teckentrup’s delicate colour palette is given the whole paintbox to play with during the course of a year, overseen by the owl deep inside the tree. There is lots to observe in this beautifully designed book and it is all enhanced by the rhyming text. Opening this book is like going for a walk in the country, but you don’t need to wear wellies, though you could put them on for authenticity…
Another breathtakingly beautiful book from the continent with a genesis in the Big Bang of Belgian bandes dessinées that fast forwards through the rise of the dinosaurs to the arrival of homo erectus and the dawn of civilisation. There it applies the brakes, so mankind’s explorations and achievements in science, culture and philosophy through the more recent millennia are playfully revealed in the witty use of negative space.
A book for anyone over 7 years to cherish.
Imagine being given a saccharine tale in the old style for your eighth birthday by your well-meaning granny. Only one thing for it: deface it to within an inch of what would shock the censor, and turn it into a story of a psychotic rabbit bent on forest armageddon who is defeated by the disgruntled recipient at the behest of the president. This is clever stuff that will be read time and time again, to look for the many editorial decisions Alexander made to tell his story. And for laffs. The kind of book that would occupy Calvin & Hobbes on a rainy day. Great for 7+ and teachers everywhere, but do lock away your valuable collections of Beatrix Potter, Little Grey Rabbit, etc.
Too many to choose from this year so I pluck one that appeared in paperback with its sequel.* It shocks you at the outset with establishing the changed history of the Great Disruption when different ages of past and possible futures collide and fold on the surface of our favourite planet turning it into a crazy paving made of history. No tardis required. One hundred years later exploring and mapmaking are the sciences that can make sense of what happened. We follow Sophie and the feathered boy in search of clues left by her kidnapped uncle, evading mysterious villains, aided by Buccaneers and discovering magic revealed in the new cartography. A hefty adventure of seismic proportions with well rounded characters and a chunky
Mango is a busy young girl with a heart (juggling her time between karate classes, chess, clarinet and other pursuits) who comes across a bump in a zebra crossing that turns out to be made of tapir. She accommodates Bambang at home and makes him feel safe and so we begin this series of charming stories (four shorts in this book), illustrated in a crisp black and white plus purple by Clara V. These are perfect for newly independent readers aged seven or so. Gently revealing the dynamics of friendship, this has been a huge favourite of us all. With its smart design and retro style, this book is one snappy dresser.
Four extra words – Super Happy Magic & Forest …
This is the first Christmas since we opened in March, and there appears to be a golden age of picture books and authors and illustrators. Publishers are pulling out all the stops to make books that will be treasured for many years.
In our first few months we have hosted events with many authors from near and far, been awarded a James Patterson Grant to send authors into schools that need an injection of inspiration.
The Alligator’s Mouth opened in March 2015 after Richmond had lost two independent bookshops in two years. We believe that a love of reading will enable every child to maximise their potential. It will improve their quality of life and make the world a better place because without a command of language and the web of meaning we would be forever misunderstanding our neighbours. If that sounds somewhat utopian I am happy to fly that flag in the face of the ‘dystopian’ testing of children from the moment they enter the education system.
We love to help children onto the right track and we are often asked to help those who are falling by the wayside. With our years of experience in helping teachers, parents and children we are well placed to diagnose what is going to make a change.
Thank you so much Tony for taking the time to write this. I wish The Alligator’s Mouth a Christmas period full of merriment and wonderful bookish things.