London's loveliest children's bookshops
Like a really good book, London's independent children's bookshops can transport us to another world. Here are the ones to visit now.
This is why children's bookshops in London are a wonderful resource, both for encouraging young minds and as a great alternative to a playground on a soggy afternoon.
We all know the many, varied benefits of reading to young children, and as children grow older and discover their own passion for books (hopefully) feeding their imaginations and thirst for books on a range of subject matters is key.
Lucky for us Londoners, the city is bursting with amazing indie bookshops catering to kids (or with seriously impressive kids' sections). Many also have book nook areas, where kids can curl up with a new discovery, as well as weekly events, like author talks and storytelling sessions.
Interestingly, indie bookshops - despite the current state of retail - are on the rise, after two decades plus of decline.
So whether you've got a bookworm on your hands, a child who hasn't quite discovered their reading passion or are looking for a novel way to explore the city (follow the children's bookshops, naturally), we've rounded up the can't-miss bookshops that kids will love in London.
Need some new book inspo? Don't miss the Marvellous and Mischievous: Literature's Young Rebels exhibition at the British Library, an immersive way to introduce kids to some literary characters who weren't afraid to carve their own paths (and there's a lovely book nook, too).
South and West:
FARA Books for Kids in Clapham
Best for secondhand books: FARA Books for Kids
74 Chatham Rd, London SW11 6HG
A specialist kids' bookshop that sells exclusively secondhand books? We're intrigued. The recently opened FARA Kids Books charity shop is a real Aladdin's treasure chest of goodies, beautifully curated for kids of all ages. Books are helpfully divided by section and author: board books, Mr Men/Little Miss books, fairy tales, Roald Dahl, Jacqueline Wilson, David Walliams, history books, YA and more.
Children don't want to leave (in fact, one of ours has asked for a birthday party in the shop), and you can walk away with almost any book your child wants for under a fiver. You'll also find foreign language books, American children's authors (Shel Silverstein, Mo Willems), and gorgeously illustrated reference and picture books you'll want to buy for yourself.
Best for inclusive authors: Round Table Books
97 Granville Arcade, Brixton Village, Coldharbour Lane, SW9 8PS
Another brilliant new addition to the world of children's reading from 2019, Round Table Books is dedicated to ensuring kids see everyone represented in literature: the shop only sells books with BAME protagonists. Look Up!, a space-themed adventure picture book from Nathan Bryon and Dapo Adeola, was their festive period bestseller.
The Alligator's Mouth in Richmond
Best for turning anyone into a book lover: The Alligator's Mouth
2a Church Court, Richmond TW9 1JL
Sure, The Alligator's Mouth has an absolutely inspiring collection of children's books, spanning the baby through teen stage. It's also a bookshop with a mission to cater to everyone from the reading-resistant to the reading-obsessed (the website helpfully has staff favourite picks and book reviews to steer parents and children in a direction they'll find exciting).
The Alligator's Mouth has hosted authors like Jacqueline Wilson, Chris Riddell, Cressida Cowell, Oliver Jeffers and Axel Scheffler as well as regular creative writing, book club and comic book workshops.
Tales on Moon Lane in Herne Hill
Best for knowledgeable staff members: Tales on Moon Lane
25 Half Moon Lane, Herne Hill, London, SE24 9JU
A bookshop with a passion for children's books (founder Tamara MacFarlane is author of the Amazing Esme series) you'll find a range of books for kids of all ages - including unusual and unexpected finds - helpful and enthusiastic staff members and even toys and trinkets. There are weekly storytime and Jolly Phonics sessions for younger kids, and it's not only the charmingly curated interior that's inviting - the window displays are inspiring, imaginative and very cleverly themed. They're also impossible to resist - you'll have to enter, and you won't leave empty-handed.
Dulwich Books in West Dulwich
Best kids' section: Dulwich Books
6 Croxted Road, West Dulwich, SE21 8SW
Dulwich Books is an independent bookshop that caters to all, but we had to include it because their children's section is comprehensive, cosy and inviting, with a nice book nook seating area for kids. Plus, on Fridays and Saturdays at 11am, there's in-house story time and crafts for pre-schoolers.
Kirkdale Bookshop in Sydenham
Best for nabbing a classic: Kirkdale Bookshop
272 Kirkdale, Sydenham, SE26 4RS
Kirkdale Bookshop in Sydenham has it all: books for all ages (and all ages of children), a combination of exciting new releases and favourites of CW's, like Mythologica, as well as secondhand editions (you can find Enid Blyton first editions, special editions of Lewis Carroll and much more). The kids' corner is a comfy, colourful space for author talks and book signings.
North and East:
Children's Bookshop in Muswell Hill
Best for the perfect gift: Children's Bookshop
29 Fortis Green Road, N10 3HP
This charming children's bookshop has been a north London staple since 1974, and stocks a wide variety of books for children of all ages. In addition to hosting a weekly storytime session and regular author events with favourites like James Mayhew and David Baddiel, expect brilliant advice from staff and a subscription service you'll want to give everyone you know for their birthday. We especially like the themed reading bundles - Baby's First, Winter's Tale, Mystery, Books to Make You Laugh, all £28 for three books - that are sure to be a hit with youngsters.
Best subscription services: Hatchards Piccadilly
187 Piccadilly, W1J 9LE
This storied bookseller has been in business since 1797 and is a must-visit whenever you're in central London. While not exclusively a purveyor of children's books, they do have the most wonderful subscription service for kids (calling all godparents). The shop's children's book specialists put together a bespoke collection of books - fiction and non-fiction, from newborn to YA. Kids will receive a gorgeously wrapped parcel monthly for a year (£150). This is also the place to find a first/limited/unusual edition of a book or author - a very special gift for your literary little one.
Discover Children's Story Centre in East London. Photo: Sorcha Bridge Photography
Best for the immersive experience: Discover Children's Story Centre
383-387 High Street, Stratford, E15 4QZ
A true London gem, Discover Children's Story Centre combines immersive, book-centric exhibitions (the newest one, Fairy Tales, opens Feb 2020) with storytelling sessions and story-themed play spaces, both indoor and out. The bookshop has a selection of books for children up to 11. A mix of modern and classic stories, you'll also find the books that inspired the centre's exhibitions.
Best to spend a day in: Pickled Pepper Books
10 Middle Lane, Crouch End, N8 8PL
More than your typical bookshop, Pickled Pepper Books is a place to settle in for an afternoon: there are preschool activities, Young Illustrators after-school clubs, regular author and illustrator events, kids' book clubs and an on-site theatre appealing to all ages, with everything from baby sensory to spoken word poetry. There are also half term workshops with author meets, storytelling, LEGO building and more.
Owl Bookshop in Kentish Town
Best for finding something unexpected: Owl Bookshop
207-209 Kentish Town Road, Kentish Town, NW5 2JU
A neighbourhood favourite, Owl Bookshop has intriguing window displays, brilliant author events and a rather spacious kids' section where you're likely emerge with an interesting book you haven't seen before. The card section will also be popular with your little ones.