We are pleased to present a regular series highlighting the work, expertise and enthusiasm of some of the greatest children’s booksellers of New Zealand. Here is Chicken and Frog children’s bookstore in Featherston, owned and curated by Joanna Ludbrook. Here Joanna shares how Chicken and Frog began, ahead of Featherston Booktown Karukatea Festival coming up this month. Chicken and Frog is one of a number of booksellers appearing at the event.
Give us a one-paragraph history of your shop.
I opened Chicken and Frog Bookstore nearly three years ago. I wanted a retirement hobby (!!), I wanted to try a new way of selling books to children, and I wanted to be a part of the Featherston Booktown environment. So far it’s been a great experience in all three areas.
What are you recommending this month?
At the moment I’m focused on promoting books by the wonderful (children’s) authors and illustrators coming to Featherston for the Karukatea Festival and Young Readers’ Programme this month. (Melanie Drewery, Gavin Bishop, Paul Adamson, Aaron Topp, Rose Northey, Heather Haylock, Joy Cowley, Dame Lynley Dodd, Lauren Keenen, to name a few). It’s wonderful to see school students having events specially organised for them.
My feature display is Mrs Wishy Washy, and the wonderful Joy Cowley – Patron of Featherston Booktown Trust and a local resident – will be coming to the shop on Saturday 13 May (3-4 pm) and Sunday 14 May (11.15-12pm) to read and sign books. She’s a treasure.
What new releases are you looking forward to over the next few months?
For me, Gavin Bishop’s Matariki will be a wonderful addition to stock. This book will be for the very young who will grow up with Matariki as a huge part of their lives. Matariki is widely celebrated in Featherston, and I’m proud to help spread awareness through the stories and glorious illustrations in books.
What’s a nice story you have about matching a book to a customer/reader?
I have a grandfather who comes twice a year for his grandchildren’s birthday and Christmas gifts, and he always reports back that the last choice was perfect, in spite of having only told me the name and approximate age of the child! It’s nice that they get the kudos.
I also loved it when a South Island grandparent arranged a store voucher through me. She was worried it was a bit impersonal, but the parents filmed the excited child ‘buying’ the book they’d chosen and sent it off to grandma from the shop. I think that’s good manners, and I really feel happy for the grandparents to have been so included.
What unique challenges/opportunities do you face as an organisation?
I’m a one-man-band with no Plan B!! But so far so good. I do love being in total control of stock from selection to sales. I curate my stock with customers in mind, and it’s a privilege to meet them and discuss their purchases – past and present. It has been my biggest learning curve, but that’s good for me, even if I’m a nervous wreck when there’s a hiccup!
What is your involvement with the Featherston Booktown Festival and why do you think it’s important? Why should people attend and what events in particular would you recommend?
The Featherston Booktown Karukatea Festival (12-14 May) is a unique event celebrating authors, illustrators, and everything about books. There are over 50 events. It attracts nearly 8,000 people to Featherston for the weekend, and the whole town comes alive with displays, decorations and even buskers. You walk from one event to another, taking in one of the seven bookstores on the way. It’s certainly worth attending. Go to booktown.org.nz for the 2023 programme and eventfinda.com for bookings. Hurry – many events are sold out!
I am looking forward to taking part in one event – ‘The perils of running a bookstore’. I’m on a panel with Ruth Shaw (The Bookseller at the End of the World) and the playwright/author Renée. I think it’ll be more about the fun of running a bookstore, with anecdotes flying and imaginations running wild! Running a bookstore?? What could possibly go wrong?!! (Saturday 13 May, 3-4pm, Featherston School Hall).
I have been a qualified Librarian for over 20 years. I have attended workshops held by the National Library Services to Schools, subscribed to Read NZ / Te Pou Muramura Writers in Schools programme, and been on the committee of SLANZA (School Library Assn of Aotearoa/NZ). I use this experience to curate my stock and also to bring writers, workshops and events to the shop.
I live in both Wellington and Featherston.