We are pleased to present a regular monthly series highlighting the work, expertise and enthusiasm of some of the greatest children's booksellers of New Zealand. Here's Auckland's iconic The Dorothy Butler Children's Bookshop.
The Dorothy Butler Children’s Bookshop has a long history. It was started in the Sixties in Dorothy Butler’s living room. She was an expert in children’s literature and reading and wrote many children’s books herself (as well as bringing up eight children). The shop moved to its current site in Ponsonby in 1985 and has had a few owners since then. Mary and Helen Wadsworth bought the shop two and a half years ago. They love it when customers come in and tell them how they used to buy books for themselves from Dorothy and are now buying books for their own children.
The owners, Helen and Mary
What are you recommending this month?
Picture books: Granny McFlitter, the Champion Knitter (Scholastic) – an excellent NZ rhyming story featuring cute penguins and a care-for-the-environment message (not just because the author gave us a toy penguin with a very cool knitted jumper!). Wait by Beck and Matt Stanton (ABC Books) is another interactive ‘book that drives kids crazy’. This one won’t let you go until it’s finished – so you just have to WAIT! Nikki Slade Robinson’s Weka’s Waiata (Duck Creek Press): the five weka each find a note so that they can make a song for Koro and Kuia – a lovely one for grandparents and tamariki to read together.
Middle fiction: Michael Morpurgo’s new book, Flamingo Boy (HarperCollins) – can’t go past Michael Morpurgo for tender animal/war stories. The Spaghetti Giraffe by Sarah Johnson (Flat Bed Press) – a fun, whimsical NZ book. The Short but Brilliant Career of Lucas Weed by Chrissie Walker (Scholastic), last year’s Storylines Tom Fitzgibbon Award-winner – for those kids who just love silliness!
Teens: Small Spaces by Sarah Epstein (Walker) – a tense and gripping thriller for teens. MunMun by Jesse Andrews (Allen & Unwin), who wrote Me, Earl and the Dying Girl. It’s set in a world where the amount of munmun (money) you have is linked to your physical size. Great concept and really cool made-up language.
And Go Girl, of course!
What new releases are you looking forward to over the next few months?
Nevermoor #2. We are sure Jessica will have come up with another magical book and we (and most of our customers) can’t wait to read it.
Stories for Boys Who Dare to be Different (Quercus). Our customers are loving the books celebrating the achievements of women. It’ll be interesting to read about ‘different’ men.
Miriama Kamo’s The Stolen Stars of Matariki (Scholastic). Love getting a new Matariki book every year.
The Secret World of Butterflies by Courtney Sina Meredith and Giselle Clarkson (Allen & Unwin) because it’s sure to be gorgeous.
What do you wish was selling better?
Teen fiction – there are some fabulous books our there that we love reading but we don’t sell nearly enough. Teenagers are probably a bit too cool to come into a ‘children’s’ bookshop so we don’t see many of them.
Share a nice story you have about matching a book to a customer/reader!
One customer confessed that neither she nor her nine-year-old son were really in to reading. But they came in when James Russell was here talking about his first Dragon Defenders book with augmented reality. Of course, her son loved the AR and loved the story too. She was back at Christmas to buy him the second one in the series. How cool that technology in a book can turn someone into a reader!
What do you wish publishers would publish?
We loved Joanna Grochowicz’s Into the White (Allen & Unwin), a narrative non-fiction book about Shackleton’s attempt to reach the south pole. More in that genre would be great. We’d love to see some reprints of Dorothy Butler's books like Sea Dog and Babies Need Books. Books depicting Pacific Islanders and other nationalities in a NZ setting. We have some great non-fiction for kids about Pacific Island heroes by David Riley, but very little fiction.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell our readers?
We’ve just finished redecorating the shop so now we’re basking in the glow and smell of fresh paint and can get on with a bit more book reading!
We have several events coming up. In the holidays, we’re having an Awesome Authors story time with readings about great writers from Go Girl, Rebel Girls and Stories for Boys Who Dare to be Different. Then we’re getting the children to decorate the front window with pictures and inspiring quotes.
In May we’ve got two book launches and we’re taking part in a simultaneous story time, when we read a picture book at the same time as lots of people all around New Zealand and Australia.
When Lynley Dodd visited the shop, lots of fans came along!
One of our plans for the year is to start a YA book club and Instagram account (see if we can attract any of those teens that don’t like coming in).
We’ll also do our annual Bookmark Competition. Primary school children can design a bookmark and the best one gets printed and is our official bookmark for the year.
We know there’s lots of choice out there and it can be easier and cheaper to buy books from overseas, so we really appreciate the support of our customers. Buying from your local bookshop really does make a difference to your community. Thank you!
The Dorothy Butler Children's Bookshop
Cnr Jervois Road & St Marys Road
Tel: (09) 376 7283