I have a special affection for children’s bookshops. As a girl who grew up to be a writer, I was obsessed with books as a child. My dad nurtured this obsession and I still get a thrill when I go into a bookshop – especially an independent.
So in honour of my obsession, the first place in the Little Lewes ‘In Town’ series – for introducing great child-friendly or -focused Lewes shops, businesses, cafés and restaurants to visitors and new residents (and perhaps showing those long-standing ones another side to the places they often visit) – is the brilliant Bags of Books.
Address: 1 South Street, BN7 2LZ
Tel no.: 01273 479320
Hours: Mon-Sat, 9.30am-5.30pm
- This small, stuffed bookshop is in a one-time bakery-turned-antiques-shop that dates back to 1577 (or so think the owners, Anna and Gavin).
- Neatly organised into sections are its stock of 8,000 books.
- Since my children are one and four, I don’t know much about Junior Fiction, Young Fiction and Teen Fiction, but am told the staff read as many of them as possible. So someone can give you the inside edge on whether a book’s content is suitable for your tween/teen.
- There are two new carousels in the middle of the shop:
* An expanded audio selection, because girls and boys less into reading and more into films and video games find this a more appealing way to absorb stories. Cool.
* Classics – abridged so five-year-olds (or unabridged so 15-year-olds) can enjoy, say, The Count of Monte Cristo. Double-cool.
- Bags of Books is bursting with ideas for author events and whole days of things to entertain and inspire children. But they report they’re often not full to capacity – a disappointment for them and a shame for those attending. It’s largely because they’re not on the main drag.
LITTLE LEWES LOVES
I have done this with every member of staff there. I love chatting. I love children’s books. I love chatting about children’s books.
I always enjoy a good chinwag with Karen. She’s the longest-serving staff member at Bags of Books, and has three sons. She has boy anecdotes, and when I’m worn out she thoroughly sympathises. Which I love.
The shop may not thank me for saying this, but before my baby came along, I made an activity of Bags of Books with my toddler on rainy days. Sitting on a beanbag with him in the Baby Room, looking at board books (from the well-loved samples), playing with the Topsy and Tim puppets… It felt embracing.
NB: Yes we love the library, and yes it’s free, but my toddler was – and my nearly-five-year-old still is – obsessed with twirling the DVD carousels and listening to the wall-mounted CDs. So I’d end up in a pog about him not wanting to look at books with me.
Gifts and advice
I always try to go to Bags of Books for presents. They do beautiful displays of ‘special occasion’ books for births, christenings and so on. And I love their seasonally-themed shelves.
Their advice is more than just verbal. They do a section of revolving ‘Our Recommendations’ that are organised by unusual themes/subjects such as ‘Top Five Stories That Are Silly’ or ‘Top Five Books About Books’. Genius.
Books to order
Amazon isn’t popular with many people in the town anyway – tax avoidance is a thumbs-down and Lewes likes to keep it local. But many don’t know that Bags of Books promises to have books you order within two days – and that they often have them by the next day.
ALL IN ALL
They run a great loyalty scheme. And they have that cosy corner. And a slide. And I’ll say it again: I like the chatting.