Happy 30th Anniversary, Children’s Book Shop!

Alison Morris - March 25, 2008

A little over a week ago I spent a lovely evening at the Children’s Book Shop in Brookline Village, where Gareth and I joined a crowd of others celebrating the store’s 30th anniversary and toasting its inimitable owner, Terri Schmitz.

I’ve been wanting to feature photos of Terri’s store for ages now and just hadn’t yet made it over there with my camera. This party, though, was the swift kick I needed. Unfortunately it was also a bit distracting! Who knew it would be so hard to be social and remain focussed on documenting the store itself? As a result this post may include less about the little details of Terri’s store than I’d like. But it will include more people, as a trade-off!

The Children’s Book Shop sits just a few paces from the Brookline Village stop on the T (Boston’s subway system), which means it’s in a great location for foot traffic. It’s also about half block from a MAJOR intersection on one of Boston’s biggest thoroughfares. But… you wouldn’t know either of those things from the photo below, which I happened to snap at an freakishly quiet moment! Trust me when I say that there are normally a lot more cars on the street and people on the sidewalk. I wanted to include this shot despite its ghost town appearance so that you see could the lovely old building that’s home to the store, and note the fact that it’s abutted by other small businesses, of which there are many more on this street.

Below is (obviously) a shot taken in much closer range! What looks like a sculpture of a bicycle out front is actually one of the town’s newer bike racks.

And here is one of Terri’s wonderful window displays! Yes, she does them herself; yes, they’re usually quite elaborate; and no, I don’t know how she finds the time!!

The current display has a princess theme, which you might have guessed from the books in the shot below, or the presence of the pink-lipped frog…

Or the castle from which dangles a fantastic Rapunzel braid! The left side of the window features a pumpkin-shaped carriage,which you can just barely glimpse in my full display photo above.

And now we’ve stepped inside the door, where Terri’s and my Little, Brown rep Roger Saginario is apparently doing his best imitation of Richard Nixon for Terri’s and my Harper Collins rep, Anne DeCourcey. Ducking between them is Jackie Miller of Reach Out and Read. And, yes, that is the back of the store you can see there. But don’t be fooled by the size of the place. Terri packs more quality literature and expertise into this small space than most stores several times as large.

On the left below is the woman of the hour, Terri Schmitz, being entertained by the always entertaining Karen Gudmundson, who is also a HarperCollins rep, though she no longer sales to either me or Terri. (Remember my remarks about the close relationships many of us forge with our reps? Well, here’s proof we still socialize with them even when they’re no longer "ours.")

In the next photo, wearing a hat (her signature accessory) is the legendary, nice-as-can-be Anita Silvey. Talking with Anita is Rusty Browder, who owned the Children’s Book Shop for seven years before Terri bought it from her (23 years ago, for those of you slow with the math).

And this is author/illustrator Leo Landry who was manager of the Children’s Book Shop for 20 years before he switched to writing and illustrating books full-time. Standing beside him is Erica Wainer, longtime Children’s Book Shop bookseller turned Houghton Mifflin editor.

Did you notice the books those two are carrying above? That’s The Wall tucked under Leo’s arm and Tree of Life being cradled by Erica. Both Leo and Erica were taking advantage of the opportunity to get books signed by Terri’s dear friend, the amazing Peter Sis.

The shot below shows a glimpse of life behind the store’s front counter. Here’s how said counter looks as you’re approaching it, IF the people behind it at that time are Peter, former bookseller Polly Cornblath, current bookseller Courtney, and (playing the part of sommelier) Polly’s husband, Mark Manin.

As for Peter’s presence at the party, this is not the first time he’s helped Terri celebrate a Children’s Book Shop milestone. He created a fantastic poster in celebration of the store’s 20th Anniversary that looks like this:

The posters are available for sale in the store and you can admire them as you walk through the aisles, as several have been dry-mounted and hung such that they dangle above you as you browse, like this:

In the photo below Peter is saying wonderfully entertaining, sincere things about Terri and her store:

And here he leads us all in a toast to a wonderful woman and a wonderful store:

And here is where the social tour abuts the physical store tour. Yes, that’s food for the party below, but see what’s behind it? The beginning reader section! Like our store (which I promise to feature soon) Terri’s section includes a couple spinner racks, in addition to what you see on the shelves of the case where (oh, what a luxury!) all books can be displayed face-out! Jealous, jealous.

Behind the beginning reader section, to the right, is the center aisle at the back of the store. Because the bookcases in the center of the store are (until the very back bit) low, and have a flat top, books can be displayed face out along the entire length of the cases, which is something I wish we could do at our store. Because you can see over the bookcases you can also get your bearings easily and find your way to the sections you’d like to see. The colorful tags you see sticking out from the history section are the dividers between subsections. When was the last time you were in a store with enough children’s non-fiction to warrant "Gold Rush" subsecti
 or "Vietnam War"? In a library this wouldn’t be unusual, but in a bookstore? Extremely rare.

The taller bookcase at the end of the center aisle contains the poetry section.

To the right of the center aisle is this one, featuring books in foreign languages.

Here’s a shot looking over the Activities, Sports, and Humor sections in the center aisle to the back right corner, where Gareth is chatting in front of the Multicultural Books section.

What you can’t see in the photo featuring Gareth above is the audiobook section, which is to the right of the natural-colored wood rack in the right-hand corner above. Most bookstores are seeing a decline in their audiobook sales these days, as increasing numbers of customers seem to be downloading them online. But Terri’s store still stocks an impressive selection.

On the store’s back wall, to the right is "New Non-Fiction." Again, you know you’re in a GOOD bookstore with a lot of non-fiction when they’ve got enough new older non-fiction to warrant separating out the new and featuring it in this fashion.

And to the left of that, "Natural Science," which occupies two entire cases.

And to the left of that, the Young Adult section:

Now we’re in the back left corner of the store, where we can turn around and look all the way up to the front counter. To our right is the Intermediate Fiction section. Feel free to pause in this aisle and take a seat on the bench that blends in so nicely with the bookcases around it.

Walking towards the front of the store, you pass the Intermediate Fiction section then arrive at the picture books. (See the first Young Adult bookcase way back there in the corner? That’s where we just were, one photo ago.)

Do an about face from here and you’ll be looking over the board book case (which I somehow failed to photograph!) at the bookcases that are on your right as you enter the store. They feature new picture books, new novels, seasonal displays, and… plush. Great book-related plush!

And that pretty much concludes your not-entirely-detailed-but-a-decent-overview tour of the Children’s Book Shop! The one space that’s not the least bit covered here is the basement, which is home to Terri’s office and the store’s overstock, but I wasn’t about to duck out of the party to photograph the "inner sanctum." You’ll have to ask Terri to give you the FULL tour when you drop by her store.

Here, though, is the original drawing by local author/illustrator Peter Reynolds that hangs on the basement door, where our tour ends.

My night at the Children’s Book Shop’s 30th anniversary celebration ended with the gift that went to every guest at the evening’s party — a fabulous goody bag…

that contained this signed print by Peter Sis:

Yep. Now I’ve got yet ANOTHER reason to love Terri and her wonderful store. And as the sign below attests, I’m HARDLY the only one with those feelings… It takes a village (a Brookline Village in this case!) to keep ANY store in operation for 30 years.

4 thoughts on “Happy 30th Anniversary, Children’s Book Shop!

  1. Ann-Marie Davis

    A wonderful tour through a terrific bookstore! I haven’t dropped in a very long time since I moved away, but it was so fun to revisit through the photos. Congrats to Terri!

  2. Shadric Smith

    Thanks for the fantastic coverage on the Children’s Bookshop. Terri is the greatest for sure and her store is a Boston institution. Congrats to her and her fine friends and staff!


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