We are in a golden age of children’s literature, and this love is felt most intensely in children’s bookstores, many of which are so special and imaginative that you could plan a whole family vacation around them. If anyone can keep your kids busy for a few hours, it’s a passionate (and patient) children’s bookseller.
The inviting exterior of Stories Bookshop in Brooklyn © Stories Bookshop Brooklyn
Experiment in Brooklyn
Like its readers, Brooklyn’s Stories Bookshop and Storytelling Lab is small but mighty. The baby-blue facade leads into a compact store with exposed brick and crisp white shelves where kids can find a new favorite book and parents can discover rare and vintage titles. In the back of the store is the Lab, designed with a one-room schoolhouse in mind, which hosts art and storytelling workshops. Drop-off classes are available for kids ages six to nine, or parents can join little ones (ages two to five) for a lesson filled with art, music and stories.
Escape the city in New York City
Books of Wonder, New York City’s oldest children’s bookstore, is a cozy utopia of tidily arranged books – new, used and collectible – on glowing oak shelves as far as the eye can see. The window display, decorated by well-known children’s illustrators, is always pure magic, and kid-lit lovers of all ages will find something to take home, from classic and contemporary books to original art. And you can soak up the literary goodness in two parts of town: While the original Books of Wonder is in Chelsea, a second location recently opened on the Upper West Side.
A literary lighthouse in Michigan
Kids don’t just love stories at Storybook Village in Pentwater, Michigan – they become parts of them, as characters and creators. Reading nooks abound, from the Fish House to the Reading Gazebo, and like a portal into another realm, a lighthouse doorway leads readers from the bookstore into the Starlight Theater Room and its wall-to-wall mural of sky and sea. Activities are seemingly endless, with puppet shows and theater productions, plus art and creative writing workshops. The book selection focuses on some specialty publishers, so don’t come with a specific book in mind. Rather, let the knowledgeable booksellers (the owner is a former teacher) pick something perfect for you.
It's always storytime at Read With Me in Raleigh © Read With Me
Share literary love in Raleigh
Curl up with a great book in the window seat of Read With Me, a Children’s Book & Art Shop, located in downtown Raleigh, North Carolina, at a walkable distance from the Marbles Kids Museum. This is a place to share your love of reading with young ones – and where art is a crucial part of that storytelling process. A local educator hosts Storytime & Craft several times a week, and kids can play with a variety of mediums including paper craft and mixed media. Well-curated shelves are organized by height, with books for youngest readers on the bottom and teen reads on the top.
Let the wild rumpus start in Minneapolis
Do you remember what it’s like to read a book as a child? It feels a lot like walking into Wild Rumpus in south Minneapolis, Minnesota. For more than 25 years, this dreamy bookshop has blurred the lines between indoors and outdoors – and between reality and the storytelling world. A canoe cruises through the waters of the ceiling, and readers pass through a tree house-inspired passageway as they move to the back of the store. It’s also officially a pet shop that only sells books, as they have a pet store license for their animal menagerie, which includes tailless cats, a chicken, rats, ferrets, a cockatiel, a tarantula and a chinchilla.
Children help paint the colorful backyard mural at Second Star on the Right in Denver © Second Star on the Right
Straight on till reading in Denver
Second Star to the Right Children’s Books in Denver, Colorado, will feel like home, where kids are free to explore to their heart’s delight. Weather permitting, storytime is hosted everyday outside on their cheerful, chalk-decorated patio, with themes as wide-ranging as Officer Robbie Storytime (with a local police officer) and Socially Conscious Storytime. Other events include yoga classes and tea parties. But don’t fret if you’re stuck inside on a rainy day – handmade stars shine down from a glittery ceiling, and secret alcoves allow young readers to curl up and dig into a good story.
Get lost in Los Angeles
For more than 30 years, the award-winning Children’s Book World in West Los Angeles has boasted a selection of more than 80,000 titles. You could spend hours here, but it would be a special treat to come for one of their special events, like Drag Queen Storytime or a kid-friendly mini-concert. And while you’re reading good books, you’re also doing good work: through their nonprofit Children’s Book Recycling Program, the bookstore collects and donates gently used books to low-income schools and programs.
It's all George, all the time at this bookstore in Cambridge © Curious George Bookstore
Monkey around the world in Cambridge
After fleeing Paris on bicycles during the Nazi occupation, the creators of Curious George and the Man with a Yellow Hat settled in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the World’s Only Curious George Store honors their memory in Harvard Square with books, exclusive toys and more. Your little monkeys can meet the famous monkey when he visits, or check out Curious George’s house at the back of the store for storytime on Friday morning.
TreeHouse Books in Ashland, Oregon, has been a community stalwart since 1978 © Tree House Books
Find the magic in Oregon
TreeHouse Books in quaint Ashland, Oregon, is the fairy ring of bookstores. With its window display of miniature worlds and an unique selection of gifts and books, this may seem like a quirky, lovable little shop, but there’s something especially enchanting about it – just maybe, magic is real here. Each genre or reading level is an entrance to a different ‘land,’ and readers will discover a Wizard Apothecary, a Secret World Vault and more. The store also hosts story-based games throughout the year that interact with the greater Ashland community, such as Gnome for the Holidays, in which kids can follow a map from the store’s gnome door to other doors throughout town. Consider coming for Halloween or the holiday Festival of Light celebration, when everyone is dressed in wacky costumes.