“Books are magic. They have the power to heal and educate and bring people together”, so shares Leanne from the fabulous family-owned, family-run Bookbugs and Dragon Tales. Based in Norwich, we’re thrilled to present this beautiful bookshop and arts centre as our first 2022 Bookshop of the Month.
Echoing Leanne’s words, innovation, inclusion and joy radiates from everything Bookbugs and Dragon Tales does - from its enchanting name, to mapping the store so customers could visit digitally during lockdown, to hosting thrilling murder mystery evenings, drama classes and Babybugs Bounce and Rhyme sessions. Read on to discover more (and prepare to be well and truly enthused!).
Describe your shop in three words.
Community, Kindness, Home.
When was your bookshop born? How did it come about?
My husband Dan worked for Bertram Books when we met, supporting IT and indie bookshops, so books and bookshops have always been a part of us. He would often be in bookshops and sometimes I would tag along. We got to see so many incredible people and incredible shops and had a 'pub dream' where we would talk about if we were to open a shop, what it would be. 3 years ago, we were chatting to someone about our dream and they asked why we were waiting and didn't just go for it. We didn't have an answer so 3 months later, I handed my notice in at work and 7 months later we opened Bookbugs and Dragon Tales!
Tell us about your journey and the changes you’ve seen (and made) along the way.
We are still relatively new (2 years and 5 months at time of writing) and so the changes we have had to navigate have largely centred around the pandemic. A huge amount of what we wanted to do was create a space of inclusivity and community, running classes and workshops and creating a safe space for all. With the mandatory closure 7 months after opening, we had to adapt quickly in order to make it through. We did online story-times, hand delivery and even had the shop 360° mapped so people could 'visit' and walk around from the comfort of their own homes. Even when we were able to reopen, we had to diverge somewhat from our business plan!
The journey so far has been a roller-coaster but every day there is something that reminds me of the importance of books and bookshops. There are so many amazing people and spaces in the bookselling community and their perseverance and adaptability is an inspiration.
What’s important in a great bookshop,? What sets you apart and makes you special?
A great bookshop needs to draw you in, make you feel safe and feel like a warm hug! There are so many wonderful bookshops and they all have their own special something.
Dan and I have 5 children between us and family is a huge part of our lives, so we wanted our bookshop to feel like an extension of this. Every customer becomes part of the family (whether they like it or not!) Every day we hear people's stories, offer advice, anecdotes and support. Sometimes people are in crisis and looking for something to help them navigate an unexpected event, while others are celebrating new beginnings, so being kind is key.
The shop itself is magical and kindness flows through the foundations of the building. As soon as people step inside, they comment on the energy and positivity. Incredible coincidences happen all the time and we meet the most wonderful people who absolutely get what we are trying to achieve and join in.
What’s your all-time favourite… novel to recommend to adults?
We have a monthly bookclub and I'm sad to say that these are often the only grown up books I read these days. However, Leonard and Hungry Paul by Ronan Hessian is one of our favourites. It's hard to describe as not a lot happens but it feels like a comforting hug of a book.
…non-fiction to recommend to adults?
Sapiens is a fascinating read and has recently been made into a graphic novel which is beautiful.
…picture book recommendation?
As a predominantly children's bookshop (although we do have about 2000 adult titles) there are so many to choose from but my all-time favourite is The Great Dog Bottom Swap by Peter Bently.
…children’s fiction recommendation?
Rabbit and Bear is a lovely early reader series that is very popular and a great starting off book. We try to match the children to the perfect book for them based on their previous loves so our recommendations are bespoke. I'm very excited about the Fireborn series by Aisling Fowler though.
Which books have you been recommending recently?
The Authenticity Project by Claire Pooley is my most recent read and I recommend it a lot.
What’s your favourite area of your bookshop?
I love every nook and cranny of the shop. It's a very old building with the upper floors from 1700 and the basement potentially from the 1500s so there are no standard size spaces and lots of hidden areas with armchairs and beanbags to hang out in. I particularly love our event space as its not beautiful but it is multi-functional and is where we have hosted events, classes, Santa, birthday parties, murder mystery evenings and all sorts of other fun things.
What are you most proud of?
I'm most proud of the staff and the incredible customers who absolutely understand what we are trying to achieve and are the reason we are what we are.
Tell us a secret about books.
Books are magic. They have the power to heal and educate and bring people together.
Apart from your own shop, which other bookshop(s) do you love spending time in?
I love every single bookshop I have ever visited! Booksellers really show who they are through their shops. Particular favourites include Bookish in Crickhowell, Main Street Bookshop and Portobello Bookshop.
What else would you like to share with the Love Reading community?
Please do all you can to support independent bookshops! We can't match Amazon or other online retailers on price as we don't get the discounts and often have enormous overheads. We aren't being greedy by selling at RRP, it's a necessity, and know that the extra few pounds you may spend on a book at an indie will be ploughed back into the local economy. By supporting your independent shops, you are creating safe spaces. Readers are what makes a bookshop, so thank you!
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