An end of year pilgrimage of sorts, with a refreshingly chilly stroll along the river from Kingston to Richmond ending up at the wonderful Alligator’s Mouth children’s bookshop, nestled at the end of a narrow cobbled alley (come to think if it, I may have imagined the cobbles but if there weren’t any, there should have been – it was that kind of place).
What an absolute delight to spend a few unhurried minutes browsing the shelves. It has the feeling of an art gallery or a museum – a place full of wisdom. The eyes are constantly drawn to different places: a shelf at eye level, a book perched in a corner, a display table brimming with treasures. But it’s very much alive – the shelves gleam a brilliant white, there’s not a speck of dust and the owners are busy planning bookish events and visits.
The shop is in two halves, the front is mostly picture books and board books, plus an interesting selection of imported titles. Unusually, many of these books were shelved by publisher, rather than alphabetically. At the back, down a step or two, was the main fiction collection, including a wall full of young adult fiction. A selection of non-fiction was squeezed in the corner.
There’s a special collection here which warrants repeated visits. It’s put together by people who clearly know what they’re doing and who clearly care about what they’re doing. A magical combination.
I could have stayed all day and spent more than would have been wise. In the end, I came away with:
Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell
The Kingdom by the Sea by Robert Westall (I’ve just re-read The Machine Gunner – a childhood favourite)
Charmed Life by Diana Wynne Jones