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One thing that has become apparent when reading about all of the fabulous bookshops that have appeared in this feature, is how wonderfully inclusive they are. The Owl and the Pyramid in Seaton Devon has become an integral, really important part of the local community, not only for locals, but also tourists. This is a bookshop that welcomes you in, and makes you feel comfortable even if you aren’t keen on reading, as Jenny has created a special area of books for reluctant readers. I wish Jenny’s maths tutoring classes had existed when I was a child, I am quite sure I would have gone as they take place in her bookshop! With an invitation to visit, next time I am in Devon I will be popping in to say hello...
When was your bookshop born and how did that come about?
I opened Owl and Pyramid in November 2014. I had been a primary school teacher for many years and when I moved to Devon decided to use that knowledge and skills to open a children's bookshop.
Tell us about the journey and the changes you have seen over the years.
I've been here for quite a short time, four and a half years, so not a long journey, and not too many changes. I started as a children's bookshop, and now have non book products such as Orchard Toys, puppets, fairtrade wooden toys, pocket money toys, cards and gift wrap. The biggest change from my starting point is that I now have a small but growing adult section of general fiction and non fiction titles. My customers are a mixture of local families, and returning holiday makers, many have allocated me as their go to bookshop, and the adults want to be catered for too. I suppose my journey has been to understand how the year fluctuates in a holiday town and to make the changes seasonally in the bookshop to best meet local and visitor customers needs.
Describe your shop in three words.
Relaxed, inclusive, fun.
Has the rise of digital retailers affected your bookshop, what were your first thoughts about ebooks and do you feel the same now?
I opened when online shopping was already a default for many people, so I'm not sure that it's affected me; it was always there. It's definitely a rival though, so the challenge is to show customers that I can do something that is more than choosing and selling. It's matching the right book to the right child, an understanding of different genres for different reading abilities and attitudes, and an environment that promotes a love of reading at all levels.
I've never read an e-book because I love to have the feel of a book in my hands and knowing how much of the story is still to come. I still feel the same, and wouldn't want to read on a screen. I've never been asked for an e-book, but would be happy to provide.
What is important in a great bookshop, tell us what sets you apart and makes you special.
I think I've answered some of that above. Matching the right book to the right child is key.
I feel I've succeeded when families come in and say, "my children would never have chosen the books you recommended, but they absolutely loved them". It's about allowing children to have options and gain the confidence to try something outside their comfort zone, and about parents trusting me help their children make those choices.
It's also about being proactive, both in the shop and the wider community. I have three children's bookclubs running for different age groups, and periodically have events such as story time in the shop. I also work closely with local schools and nurseries, either taking an author or activity into school, or hosting groups or classes in the shop. I've also sponsored the local children's cricket team, and have done storytime activities at a local fun run event.
Tell us about the books you love to recommend.
One of my favourite authors, and a great friend to the shop is Devon author Claire Barker who wrote the Knitbone Pepper series. Her books are funny, and very kind, and great books for families to read together. They are also illustrated beautifully, so great for children who aren't ready for too much text. Other Devon and nearby authors whose books have been great successes at book clubs are Tom McLaughlin (Accidental series), Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre (Pugs of the Frozen North) and Emma Carroll (Amazing historical fiction). The Pip and Posy books by Axel Scheffler are wonderful books for toddlers, and I love Morag Hood's picture books.
But really the recommendation depends on the child; I love to recommend what I think will encourage their love of reading.
What is your favourite part of your bookshop?
It's hard to narrow it down, but I think the books I've selected for children who aren't keen on reading. It's a mixture of dyslexia friendly titles, novels with plenty of illustrations, diary style books, and engaging non fiction. The titles could come from any part of the shop, but by putting them all together, even the most reluctant reader can see that there is something there for them.
Tell us a secret about books.
Books are like a tardis, they can take you to any time and place in the universe, and they are bigger on the inside as there's a whole world in there.
Also if your child is a reluctant reader, buy them a joke book or information book with startling facts (100 Most Dangerous Things in the Planet is my favourite). They'll be able to dip in, choose small bits of information and read them out loud to you, and will receive instant reward when you laugh out loud or gasp in horror.
Apart from yourselves, which other bookshop(s) do you love to spend time in?
Any book shop, anywhere.
What else do our members need to know about you?
As a teacher I was always a maths specialist, and now I have maths tutoring groups in the shop for primary aged children.
I am a one stop shop for children's parties. Buy the gift, card and wrap in one place. If you're in a hurry I will wrap the gift while you write the card. This happens quite often.