On Building a Library

dr.pngDuring the school holidays, two sisters came into the shop with their mother and they both asked for some of the Cat Warrior books. But I didn’t have any.
They comforted me, they said that it didn’t matter as they had other books to read. The older sister was reading The Dragon World books – Icefire and Fire Ascending and the younger sister was reading Pippi Longstocking in the South Seas.
They said they have never run out of books because one sister has 43 books at home and the other has 112 and sometimes they read the same book again because if it is good enough they can read it again, maybe three times. The older sister, however, has read Inkheart no less than four times so far. They only collect books that are really good but sometimes a half good book is ok. They change the shelves around a lot and also mix the books around to change the colours. Their seriously best book, which is about dragons, goes on the best shelf.


The boys who piled their skateboards next to the bookshelf so they could go and look through the shop


This young family came in carefully and steadily, out of the summer and containing neatly four young boys, brothers, and a young mother who warned everyone to take care. The boys then stacked their skateboards next to a bookcase. They stacked them precisely and gently, taking care.
They moved amongst the books, scanning, pointing, experienced. Soon one boy came to the counter and told me how his friend was reading all of the Cat Warrior books and that it was funny that I had those exact books in the window. Then he moved away again. Their mother was reading in the chair. Two of the boys were under the table reading The Eleventh Hour, which they had at their school. Another boy was high stepping neatly and soundlessly around everyone else, he was saying:
Strike one, strike two, pinto on the road…
The first boy returned to the counter to tell me about Inkheart. He said: Inkheart is really good.
His smaller brother is now over in Poetry and Plays, he holds the shelf and stands on one leg, he is still chanting: strike one, strike two, pinto on the road…he holds a copy of One Dragon’s Dream on his head.
The first boy tells me that Skulduggery is really good, and The Hunger Games might be good and Dragon Eternal is really good. A Wrinkle in Time is mental, it is so good.
Their mother reminds them to take care. More visitors came in, they tell me about the heat as they enter, they take off sunglasses and look down at the skateboards…
Strike one strike two, pinto on the road…
South of Darkness isn’t that good, His Dark Materials, ok maybe, Elidor is fantastic…
The boys under the table are making a stack of books to read, they haul them across the carpet, they glance at their mother and take care.
Beast Quest was good but not anymore…
…strike…strike….one for luck…
The boy at the counter is resting his head on his arms, drowsing as he thinks of all the books that must be listed, the shop is going to sleep, the hot day is going to sleep and the kindly chime in the front room ticks slowly onwards (strike seven, strike eight… no pinto on the gate…) he is taking care with it and he is taking us with it…

Where the Wild Things Are


It was quiet last night and I thought I might close the shop early, there was only a taxi waiting across the road, the car park was empty and the whole railway station silent.

But then, a mother and three small children burst in and the children stopped abruptly to tell me some important news. They said that the middle sister was not allowed to have a book today because she had run across the road when they were meant to just walk. The middle child said that this was not true but her mother suggested that it might actually be true.

They worked through the shelves and across the tables and around the stacks and made speedy and loud choices. They were pleased to have found Matilda by Roald Dahl. The middle sister stood with crossed arms and regarded me impassively. She said that next time she doesn’t run across a road she will get Inkheart because she likes the green lizard on the front.

When they all left, pushing out into the quiet, I saw the middle sister dash across the road again and stand by the car, waiting for her outraged siblings and her grim mother.