The disco thump of the Tea Dance next door accompanies me as I write my blog post from vacation in Provincetown, Mass. View from house can be seen to the right. I have spent the day luxuriating with my friends in our rented house on Commercial Street, the busiest street in town. Some of you might wonder why on earth I’m blogging from vacation (PW is making me). I am wondering the same thing, frankly, but Ptown, as the locals refer to it, has a rich literary history, although not one steeped in children’s literature.
That may appear to be the case, but there is a gem of a bookstore that has an astoundingly rich, well-rounded kids’ section. I spent some time today at Provincetown Book Shop, est. 1932. Every time I come to Ptown, I marvel anew at the depth of their children’s stock. Ptown, long a gay and lesbian mecca, is not a town people think of when they think about kids’ books, but the Provincetown Book Shop knows that many tourists, most of them straight day-trippers, have kids, and those kids need something to read when the drag queens cease to be a curiosity anymore, which these days takes about five minutes.
Jane, one of two employees, has worked at the store for thirty eight years. Wow! I’ll stop complaining about my thirteen at the Flying Pig. Since the owner passed away several years ago, she’s buying the kids’ books, and she’s doing a damned good job. The store is tiny, no more than 500 square feet, and the kids’ section takes up just under a quarter I always measure a kids’ store by the classics it stocks. Do they have Virginia Lee Burton? H.A. Rey’s Find the Constellations, D’Aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths, The Red Balloon? Do they have the modern classics like The Book Thief and Twilight? Yes and yes for this little store. They also have an entire spinner rack of Dover coloring books right next to the lesbian fiction section. I love this store.
I can walk in here and get the latest vampire novel or Gossip Girl (really, don’t kids need beach reads, too?) as well as a hardcover Charlotte’s Web. The thing I like the most about this store is its assortment of reading material. Just under Clam I Am! (its bestseller this year) you’ll find the adult, and I mean “adult” overstock, with such diverse titles as Secrets of a Gay Marine Porn Star, (also a bestseller) and Code of Conduct. In any other place, these titles might not mingle so freely. But this is Provincetown, and nothing is taboo and it’s all good, More power to Jane, an astute buyer who knows her customers so well, she knows what they’ll need to read and she knows her largest market share right now are teenage girls who have all read Twilight and come in looking for something new. And she’s got it, right there next to the Cape Cod history books. Really, if you’re in Provincetown, stop by and see what marvels can occur in five hundred square feet with someone who is a shelving savant. A store this good kind of makes me want a rainy day.
Throughout the week Elizabeth and I will be posting news from other stores we visit on the Cape. Stay tuned!