My tribute to The Original Children’s Bookshop and the wonderful 10 years I worked there

Posted: November 11, 2016 in Uncategorized

This is a difficult post to write but one I must. 

This is not about the history of the shop, or the owner’s experiences or even the fate of the shop (although I am ever hopeful a buyer will be found). None of that is my story to write. This is about my ten years experience working in one of the most wonderful bookshops ever.

I worked every Saturday and many of the school holidays for the last ten years. The best holiday to work was the build up to Christmas where everyone was full of excitement and book chat.  We had the perfect location, right in the heart of Victoria Street in a quirky building with lots of nooks and crannies. The big earthquakes of 2010 and 2011 changed all that but we dusted ourselves off and started again in a different part of town.

What I gained from my years of working as a retail assistant was a growing confidence in myself. I had to approach customers and begin conversations, something I was always intimidated by before. Over the years, these customers have become friends. I know their children, I know their likes and dislikes. I have hugged customers as they cried when telling me why they are buying a special book for a wee child. Stories about a young dad dying or siblings who have died. I remember helping a young mother with book choices for her children and wrapping them for Christmas presents, knowing she had cancer. Sadly she died a few weeks later.

Then there are the grandparents who religiously come in every birthday, Easter and Christmas. They are all like family. We don’t just sell books and gifts, we listen. We listen and even on occasions look at their family photos.

I have attended many publishers Road Shows which I will miss. I loved finding out what new books were coming out and felt I was privy to special secrets. I have had the privilege of meeting so many fantastic authors and illustrators from New Zealand and internationally. I’ve had wonderful conversations with Margaret Mahy, Andy Griffiths, Derek Landy and so many more. I have chatted with Michael Morpurgo (my absolute hero) and even been kissed on the cheek by him. Years later, my right cheek is still unwashed.

I was so fortunate to have my own book launch at the shop. A wonderful setting, a fantastic night with wine and nibbles, and an amazing cake. I felt like royalty, thoroughly spoiled by so many friends all thanks to the support of staff at the shop.

What saddens me about the closing of this wonderful shop, is not just a personal loss of a job I have loved, but what it means to the city of Christchurch and children’s literature in general.  We were specialists and while other bookshops sold much the same as we did, we also sold those books that were unique, beautiful and sophisticated. We were not afraid to come out from behind the counter and talk with our customers.

I will miss my wonderful colleagues, Jane, Louise, Pru and Mary, my boss, and Jamie who had recently moved on to another job. I will miss having somewhere special to go every Saturday. I will miss our wonderful customers. I miss my old friend, The Original Children’s Bookshop more than I thought I ever could. I feel like I have lost an old friend and am grieving for that friend. 

A few Saturdays ago when news became public about our liquidation, the shop was so full with customers coming in. Many of them cried, sad we were closing.  Customers just hugged us openly and in shock. Emotionally it was an incredibly tough day but I feel so proud to have been part of this very special place and to have travelled with them for as long as I have.

Is it the end? I hope not. Will it be bought? I hope so. Will I stop crying? One day!

As they say, never say never. I live in hope. And please, please, shop local. Keep our bookshops alive.

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