I nearly went to London last week. It was supposed to be London Book Fair, our big yearly industry event attended by everyone involved in the book trade, including, of course, booksellers. I nearly got to stay in a hotel, spend two days talking books with like-minded people and meet lots of lovely booksellers that I’ve only spoken to online.
One lovely publisher invited booksellers to a Pizza & Prosecco night (Disclaimer - I really can’t stand Prosecco, sorry. I think it tastes like old socks. But I’m sure there would have been red wine, and pizza is obviously always great.) But of course, people flying in from all over the world was just too great a risk, and it was, quite rightly, cancelled. So I stayed here, at the Emporium; and although this is one of my very favourite places, I must admit I was disappointed (especially as Jacqui still went to London to go to the Booksellers Association’s AGM). However, the dragons made it so much better.
First there was Zog. We had a stream of small children, a few clutching tightly to their very own toy dragons, who had been to see Zog at the Palace Theatre four doors down. Lots of people discover us that way, and it’s wonderful to see so many children explore the shop for the very first time, a place that’s designed just for them.
Then a fellow bookseller reached out to the hive mind for recommendations of upper middle grade adventure/sci fi/fantasy books with BAME protagonists. Some fantastic suggestions were made, and I got to recommend one of my favourite books of the past year.
The Land of Roar is by Jenny McLachlan, with absolutely wonderful illustrations throughout by Ben Mantle. Think contemporary Narnia meets Neverending Story and you’ll be on the right track. Eleven year old twins Arthur and Rose must travel to Roar, the place they invented when they were six and had all but forgotten, in order to rescue their grandfather. There are Lost Girls, a Wizard Ninja, an Evil Scarecrow, and yes there are dragons! One of them is called Bad Dragon, which has to be the best ever dragon name. To my delight, there is a second book being published in June, Return To Roar, which I absolutely cannot wait to read.
And then, on Wednesday, the dragons arrived. We’d seen pictures, but nothing could prepare me for how absolutely gorgeous they are. I always love getting deliveries from the Puppet Company, but these new dragon puppets are something particularly special. They’re beautiful and really squishy, with the most expressive faces, and they just make me smile.
So I’ve decided I don’t want to sell them. These are mine. I’ve priced them up; and put them onto the till, but I’m sorry, I’m not actually going to let anyone buy them. They’re going to stay here with me in the shop. I will name them and keep them and they will keep making me smile. (According to Jacqui, I’m not allowed to keep them, which is very unfair and We Shall See)
A dragon that is definitely staying here is Dragon Detective Dave Bob Dilly. Our new book club, Story Bites Orange, met for the first time on Saturday having read Dragon Detective - Catnapped by Gareth P. Jones. This is a brilliantly funny adventure mystery story, in a style I can only call Dragon Noir. It has unforgettable characters, lots of twists and turns, and is highly recommended by the book club. Inspired by Detective Dirk Dilly, the group created and named their very own dragon, and you can see him flying from the ceiling of our event room.
So, in these very strange times we find ourselves, (Grim Times, as our Story Bites Blue group would say) I wish you many dragons to make you smile, wherever you might find them.