Kevin interviews: The Bookshop on the Green

The next stop on Kevin’s Bookshop Tour was The Bookshop on the Green at Bournville. At first he wasn’t sure how he was going to find it, but as he drew closer one of his favourite smells began to fill the air. It was the smell of chocolate, and where there was chocolate, thought Kevin, there would probably be chocolate biscuits.

He followed the smell all the way to the Cadbury’s Chocolate Factory. Nearby, clustered around its triangular village green, was Bournville, and there under a wavy roof was the Bookshop on the Green.



But to Kevin’s disgust, it was full of unicorns!

Kevin hated unicorns, they were so full of themselves, always posing under waterfalls with their rainbow manes and glittery hooves. They would probably have eaten all the biscuits too, he thought, as two friendly squirrels guided him down to land on the bookshop roof. That would be just the sort of thing unicorns would do - they had No Consideration For Others.

Luckily, his friend Daisy was waiting for him, and she did have Consideration For Others. She had so much of it that she had saved Kevin some biscuits, which she brought out on a plate to welcome him. That was the sort of welcome Kevin liked best, and while he was eating it Daisy said,

“Don’t worry about all the unicorns everywhere, it’s always like this here. When you’ve finished all those biscuits you can come inside and I’ll introduce you to bookseller Sarah Mullen, she’s ace. Oh, you HAVE finished all those biscuits - that was quick!”



They went inside the shop. A jellyfish who was sitting in her bowl on the bench outside nudged the grumpy unicorn who was sitting next to her.

“Hey, Grumpycorn, it looks as if that roly poly flying pony is doing a tour of bookshops. Maybe you could do that too! It’s a very good look for a horse-based mythical animal.”

“It sounds AWFUL,” said the unicorn. “And DON’T CALL ME GRUMPYCORN!”


Kevin:
What is the best thing about being a bookseller?

Sarah:
Recommending books to customers and seeing their faces light up when you match them with the perfect volume. And discussing favourite books which leads to discovering new authors I may never have otherwise read.

Kevin: What’s one way you’ve tackled a problem that your bookshop has faced during the pandemic?

Sarah:
All team members had children to home-educate so when lockdown happened, we couldn't facilitate a click and collect service. But we stayed in touch with our customers via social media and newsletters, shared recommendations, promoted our online platforms and made brilliant seasonal window displays - so our customers were there and eager to return when we finally reopened in April.

Kevin:
What are three books you absolutely love hand-selling to customers?

Sarah: Two Brothers and a Chocolate Factory by Juliet Clare Bell and beautifully illustrated by Jess Mikhail - I commissioned this preschooler book about the Cadbury Brothers 6 years ago and it fills me with pride every time a copy's sold. The Salt Path by Raynor Winn. American Dirt by Jeanne Cummins (brilliant for hooking in new adult readers as it grabs your attention from the start). But it's a very difficult choice as there are so many books l love hand-selling!



Kevin:
Who is your favourite children’s book illustrator? (Other than Reeve & McIntyre…)

Sarah: We do love Nick Sharratt - he's the Patron of the children's book festival we run, Bournville BookFest - and his instantly-recognisable illustrations really do encourage children to pick up books and try new stories. Sarah McIntyre’s cover for the "Pugs of the Frozen North" has a similarly magnetic effect!

Kevin:
Oo, can I be part of Bournville Bookfest? That sounds fun!

Sarah: You can, indeed! In fact, we already have a booking for Saturday, 11 September listed on the website. And a Grumpycorn event, too!



Kevin: Fabulous! I'm sure there will be lots of chocolate biscuits... and hopefully not too many unicorns. Another question, do you have a shop pet?

Sarah: What a great idea! We need one :)

Kevin: What is your favourite biscuit?

Sarah: Custard cream.

Kevin:
Mine too! (Dives headlong into the Bookshop on the Green’s biscuit cupboard.)

Kevin (muffled): Nom nom nom. What is the best way for people to buy books from you if they can’t visit the shop in person?

Sarah: Our orderline is: hello@bookshop.org.uk. And if you scroll down to the bottom of our event page, you can buy all four of the books about you!

Kevin: Wait, what... are there books about me?



Visit Bookshop on the Green's website at the Bournville Hub and you can follow them on Instagram - thebookshoponthegreen , Twitter - @BookshopotGreen - and on Facebook. And follow Kevin's ongoing tour at #ReeveAndMcIntyreBigUpBookshops!

Picture Books, Making Business





This introduction in The Bookseller by Tom Tivnan is so good to read. Thanks to my agent Jodie Hodges for flagging it, and for all her support! And to The Bookseller team, to whom so many #PictureMeanBusiness successes are due, because they've listened to us and helped shape the way industry people talk and think about illustrators.

Find out more about Pictures Mean Business at PicturesMeanBusiness.com, website by illustrator Soni Speight.

Editor Clare Whitston



Huge thanks to our editor Clare Whitston for her years of work on the Reeve & McIntyre books! Philip Reeve and I wish her a golden Custard Cream Rainbow of a freelance future!



Some photos from years past: The Legend of Kevin biscuity launch with publisher Liz Cross, at Bologna Book Fair (and mini me), with designer Jo Cameron and Liz at the Cakes in Space launch:

Kevin interviews: The Bookcase

Kevin’s stay at Halfway Up the Stairs in Greystones had been fun, but he had basically finished all the biscuits in Ireland (sorry about that, Irish biscuit lovers), so he decided it was time to flap back across the sea to England. The next shop on his list was The Bookcase, in the village of Lowdham, eight miles north of Nottingham.



"More than just a bookshop" was its motto, and when Kevin arrived in Lowdham he found that was true - The Bookcase was also an Active Crime Scene! As Kevin swooped in to land a tiny, red getaway car driven by a tiny, furry criminal came screeching around the corner of the shop. The car was stuffed with a stolen book, and among the flowers in the window-box another fluffy wrong-doer lurked, ready to leap aboard as it sped by.

The robbers were none other than Bumbleford’s own guinea-pig Bonnie-and-Clyde-alikes Neville and Beyoncé, enjoying another crime spree.

“Floor it, Bey!” squeaked Neville, as he vaulted out of the window-box with his ill-gotten paperback. “We’ll be safe across the Derbyshire border before they can catch us, and we’ll sell these valuable books for a whole load of sunflower seeds!”



Luckily, Kevin’s friend Max was waiting at the shop to meet him, and they were used to fighting crime together. Kevin sat down very firmly on the pavement in front of the car, and Max scooped the startled guinea pigs out of it as it bounced off Kevin’s bottom.

“You may have outwitted us this time,” squeaked Beyoncé, as Max put them in a shoe box ready to take them home to Bumbleford, “but the world will hear from us again!’

Ignoring the muffled threats from inside the shoe-box, Kevin and Max carried the stolen books back into the shop. Bookseller Jane Streeter was very grateful for their help. Would there be a reward, wondered Kevin? And would it come in the form of biscuits? But first he had to ask Jane some Serious Questions.



Kevin: What is the best thing about being a bookseller?

Jane: Talking with customers about books we love and witnessing the "falling in love with books" process in our younger customers!

Kevin: What’s one way you’ve tackled a problem that your bookshop has faced during the pandemic?

Jane: We put on lots of story trails for families in local woods and sold craft packs to accompany each story - this kept us in touch with customers in a really positive way when we couldn't hold physical events.

Kevin:
What are three books you absolutely love hand-selling to customers?

Jane:
Oh gosh, that's too hard! It changes all the time - at the moment it's Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell, Miss Benson's Beetle by Rachel Joyce and the Little People Big Dreams series.*



*These were precisely the books Neville and Beyoncé had been trying to steal.

Kevin: Who is your favourite children’s book illustrator? (Other than Reeve & McIntyre…)

Jane: Shirley Hughes

Kevin: What is your favourite biscuit?

Jane: Hobnob

Kevin: Ahhh, the classics. Would you have any around at all? I want to remind myself what they taste like.

Jane: Plain, or chocolate?

Kevin: Both, please!

(Five minutes later…)

Kevin: Burp. What is the best way for people to buy books from you if they can’t visit the shop in person?

Jane: Call us on 0115 966 4143 or via our online shop!



Visit The Bookcase's website - thebookcase.co.uk - keep track of their events here, and you can follow The Bookcase on Instagram - thebookcaselowdham - and on Facebook.

Signed bookplate for the first 100 pre-orders!

The first 100 pre-orders of Kevin vs The Unicorns will get a signed bookplate edition from Page 45! You can order from their website right here!



Support a terrific independent bookshop! Pre-orders are a huge help to booksellers in gauging how much stock they'll need, so you can do a lot by ordering this way. Page 45 ship worldwide and have been so utterly supportive of my career, Stephen Holland and his team mean an awful lot to me.



Here are Philip and me signing at my desk. (He was in town this week to see the production of his Lord God musical in Brighton - which was ace!)

Kevin interviews: Halfway Up The Stairs

Kevin had enjoyed his week at Little Acorns Bookstore in Derry. With a tummy full of traybake and Biscoffs, he said his goodbyes and took off. He flew south over the border and down the coast. As he flapped over Dublin, Dun Laoghaire, and Black Rock he saw the Irish Riviera was basking in blazing sunshine as usual, and the ice cream shops were doing a rare old trade.

But Kevin wasn’t all that interested in ice cream - it was too cold, and not biscuity enough. He wondered what exciting biscuits would be waiting for him at Halfway Up The Stairs in Greystones?



When he landed outside the shop he found that it wasn’t half way up any stairs at all, it was just on a street, like a normal shop. To his surprise, his friend Cardigan Faun was there, along with all his family. “I’m certainly meeting a lot of people from back home in Bumbleford on this International Bookshop Tour,” said Kevin.

“That’s because this picture of a bookshop was painted by Sarah McIntyre, and we’re the people she likes drawing best,” explained Cardigan Faun.

“Who?” said Kevin. “And what do you mean, picture?”
“This is a picture we’re in,” said Cardigan Faun. “It’s a very nice one, too. It was done in watercolour.”

It was all getting a bit meta for Kevin. “You’ll be telling me next I’m just a picture of a flying pony,” he said. “But I am not, I am an actual real live flying pony, and also a roly-poly one, which is the Best Sort. Anyway, I’m mainly here for the biscuits I mean books.”



Luckily, just at that moment, the picture of a door popped open and a picture of Mrs Cardigan Faun came out to welcome him with a nice big plate of biscuits.

“Are those just a picture of biscuits?” asked Kevin, suspiciously.

“No, they’re real enough!” laughed Mrs Cardigan Faun. “And when you’ve eaten them, come inside and meet Trish Hennessy - she’ll answer all your booky questions.”

Kevin: What is the best thing about being a bookseller?

Trish: Getting the right books into the hands of children

Kevin: What’s one way you’ve tackled a problem that your bookshop has faced during the pandemic?

Trish:Teaming up with Sarah Webb, we have hosted monthly Children’s Books Salons, bringing authors & illustrators (including Philip Reeve & Sarah McIntyre!) and children’s books experts together in conversations held on Zoom, to an adult audience of children’s book lovers. We also have brought our personal touch to online transactions by providing a personal recommendation service, and handwriting cards for all postal transactions.

Kevin
: What are three books you absolutely love hand-selling to customers?

Trish: Diary of Pig series by Emer Stamp; Boot by Shane Hegarty & Ben Mantle; Here we Are by Oliver Jeffers (and of course The Roly Poly Flying Pony books, and we love Grumpycorn too!!)



Kevin: Who is your favourite children’s book illustrator? (Other than Reeve & McIntyre…)

Trish: Oliver Jeffers

Kevin
: What is your favourite biscuit?

Trish: Plain chocolate digestives. Would you…

Kevin
: Ooh! Don’t mind if I do… (TWO HUNDRED PLAIN DIGESTIVES LATER) Do you have a shop pet?

No. I do have a lab called Simba but he’s a bit nuts so I wouldn’t trust him for a second in the bookshop!

Kevin: What is the best way for people to buy books from you if they can’t visit the shop in person?

Trish: Visit halfwayupthestairs.ie!



You can follow Halfway Up The Stairs on Twitter - @HalfwayUpBooks - Instagram - halfwayupthestairsbookshop - and on Facebook.
And follow Kevin's tour at #ReeveAndMcIntyreBigUpBookshops!

Esther Blessed's new website!

I often mention Esther Blessed on this blog and social media because she's the one who make the amazing dresses I wear to events, and more recently, the line of masks I've been wearing and modelling for her. Esther's team, Sandra Addai and Esther Boateng, and have just set her up a brand-new website, do have a look! I make some appearances, along with her friend Samantha (who runs an awesome cake-making company). It was a hot, windy day, and I'd raced there on the train and looked a bit dishevelled when I arrived, but lovely photographer Federico Michettoni still got some great shots - have a browse through the website to see more.



Here's Sam, she looks amazing:



And I was glad to see Esther modelling some of her clothing, too! That's not really my car, we just... uh, stood close to it. We didn't have a lot of time between outfits so I hope I didn't flash anyone too badly when I whipped between one and the next.



Esther's using the beautiful Ankara fabric I like so much (sometimes called Dutch wax); you can see a selection here. I have quite a large collection of bolts of fabric - for some reason it always comes in 6- or 12-yard pieces, which fold up nicely to fit like books on a shelf.



Esther still sells masks and accessories on her Etsy site, but this site has entirely new and different stock, and it's well worth checking out: estherblessed.co.uk (UK shipping only.) You can also follow her on Twitter - @EstherBlessedUK - and Instagram - estherblessed.

Kevin interviews: Little Acorns Bookstore

Kevin was sorry to leave Wales, but he had eaten all the custard creams in Crickhowell, and all the Welsh Cakes too. It was time to fly on to his next appointment, across the Irish Sea to the Little Acorns Bookstore in Derry. Would there be Irish Cakes? Kevin was eager to find out.



When he landed, he recognised a familiar face. But it wasn’t just a familiar face - that would have been weird. No, the familiar face was attached to a familiar body and some familiar arms and legs, and they all belonged to Misty Twiglet, Bumbleford’s own Pop Sensation. She had brought Cedric the Centaur with her, and also a pet pug, whose name was Love Missile F1-11.

“But what are you doing here?” asked Kevin, confused.



“Oh I buy ALL my books at Little Acorns Bookstore,” said Misty, mistily. “I’ve just been recording a duet with famous Irish songstress Lána Bus and I popped in on my way home to pick up the latest bestseller by Reeve and McIntyre.”

“By who?” asked Kevin. But he wasn’t here to discuss Misty’s obscure literary tastes. “I’m here to interview bookseller Jenni Doherty,” he said importantly.

“She’s been expecting you!” said Cedric the Centaur. “She’s just popped out to hide all her biscuits for some reason, but she said you should have a look around the shop while you wait for her. It’s not just books! There are a load of Interesting Old Typewriters everywhere!”
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