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 McLeods Booksellers of Rotorua, a shop that has existed in various forms since 1896!
McLeods Booksellers is an independent, family-owned business that was formerly A.T. Coates Ltd, which opened in 1896 when Rotorua only had around 500 people.
In 1943, Arthur Coates sold the shop to Ken McLeod and the shop was registered as McLeods Booksellers Ltd. The shop grew and many of the older residents still reminisce about its oak front and lush red carpet. In 1968, Ken McLeod sold the bookshop to Trevor Thorp. In the 1980s Trevor's son David joined the business and now runs it with his wife Lynne Jones. The shop is now at 1148 Pukuatua Street and maintains its old world charm.
What are you recommending this month?
We are recommending the new children's novel by Jessica Townsend, Wundersmith (Lothian), which returns to the utterly magical and compelling world of Nevermoor, as well as Kat Merewether's new picture book, Kuwi's Rowdy Crowd (Illustrated Publishing), which contains all of her trademark humour, clever plays on kiwiana, and gorgeous illustrations and story.
Tom Moffatt's hilarious new book of short stories, Mind-Swapping Madness (Write Laugh), will be a great one for children and the new David Walliams', The Ice Monster (HarperCollins), looks great too.
Oh Boy: An Epic Storybook of NZ Men is now a great follow-up and companion to Go Girl (both Penguin NZ), covering New Zealand women, for kids. Gavin Bishop's Cook's Cook and Rivers by Peter Goes are stunning and informative books published by Gecko Press.
Map of Days by Ransom Riggs (Puffin) is the latest in the 'Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children' series and it just gets better and better! I was very touched by Pax by Sara Pennypacker (HarperCollins) and am recommending this to children and adults. It's the story of a boy and his fox trying to find each other in a world divided by war and fraught with dangers. It contains so much heart, is beautifully narrated, and the lessons in it are applicable for all ages.
We also love How Winston Delivered Christmas, which is a very cute advent storybook with activities for children to work through.
What new releases are you looking forward to over the next few months?
We are excited about the release of On the Come Up by Angie Thomas, who had huge success with her debut novel, The Hate U Give.
Also, Kelly Wilson's new book for horse lovers, Koolio: the Problem Pony, in the 'Showtym Adventures' series; and Circle, which is the third picture book in the shape series by Jon Klassen and Mac Barnett, and is hilarious in its deadpan way. It is also a great discussion starter for kids on the fear of the unknown and not judging by first appearances.
The Dog Runner by Bren MacDibble, the author of How to Bee, looks promising too. I Am So Clever by Mario Ramos and published by Gecko looks great: it's a picture book featuring the wolf who was also in I Am So Strong and I Am So Handsome.
What do you wish was selling better?
I'm surprised we are not selling more of Illuminatlas (Quarto), which has three coloured lenses that reveal different elements in the landscapes of the world.
And Gavin Bishop's Cook's Cook, which we love, but people don't seem to be all that aware of yet. We will keep hand-selling this one, because it is such a beautifully presented, quirky book with really interesting historical information pertaining to Cook's voyage in it.
Share a nice story you have about matching a book to a customer/reader!
We regularly have people who ask for our recommendations or pick books off the 'Books We Love' stand in the shop and then come back asking for further recommendations because they loved the one they went away with the first time. This is always very satisfying.
We love getting kids into reading, so when we hear back from parents or grandparents that a book we recommended got their child or teen into reading and keen for more books, it is a huge encouragement. This happens often, and especially at Christmas we will have people come in with a list of the children and ages they want to buy for, that we match books to each time.
What do you wish publishers would publish?
There is a real gap in the market for junior fiction and young adult fiction that is written in te reo Māori. We are increasingly asked for these, not just by that age group but also by new learners of Māori, of whom there are plenty.
For years, we have been asked for a children's picture book of Hatupatu and the Bird Woman, which is a famous local legend, so we are waiting for someone to do this too!
Is there anything else you’d like to tell our readers?
We are passionate about spreading the message about the benefits of buying locally as opposed to the impersonal online shopping experience, which is taking away from brick and mortar bookshops around the world. The more we can increase awareness in a positive way around localism, the better.
I think it's great for bookshops to work in with other local businesses them to encourage shopping locally, for example we are working in with Portico Gallery and Zippy Central Cafe in December to create a passport that customers can get stamped if they visit our shops to go in the draw to win a prize, as well as having a late night shopping evening with 10% discount on Thursday 6th December. This is an initiative to encourage buying locally as well as creating a fun buzz that week around it.
We get a lot of compliments on our shop from visiting tourists and holidaymakers saying it's so nice to see a 'real' bookshop, which is encouraging as we can offer more than just selling books. It's about the experience of browsing and enjoying the atmosphere of a quality bookshop with staff who are passionate about reading. A bookshop can also be a cultural hub in the community, and we have a lot of author events in the shop and a poetry reading evening proved very popular too.
We regularly have dress-up challenge days with the Arts Village Cafe, which get people talking, and more businesses and locals are showing interest in participating, which is a fun way of engaging with the community. We also held a children's dress-up competition for NZ Bookshop Day, which was super fun, and we had quite a few princesses, a rainbow unicorn, and the cat in the hat gracing our shop for a morning!
1148 Pukuatua Street
Tel: (07) 348-5388