Declaring Independence – celebrating independent book shops: Rogan’s Books

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It’s the latest in my sporadic Friday feature, where I want to highlight some of the many independent book shops that are out there waiting to be discovered. Whilst there are the usual online book retailers and big name high street shops there are also some wonderful independent bookshops with a treasure trove of literary delights to uncover. There is nothing quite like browsing in a book shop, seeing the books, being able to actually look at them before deciding and of course the booksellers and owners are often a mine of information, a much underused resource.

The sad thing is that unless they are used they will vanish from our towns and villages. The childhood (and to be fair, grown up) delight of visiting a book shop and being able to sit amongst so many books, deciding which new unearthed treasure to take home will be sadly lost.

The eighth bookshop to be virtually visited is Rogan’s Books in Bedford.

1. Tell us about Rogan’s Books.

Rogan’s Books is an independent children’s bookshop in Bedford, specializing in books that teach children more about the world they live in – feminism, gender, refugees, racism, bullying… We want children to see themselves and the things they face on the shelves, and to find comfort in the pages of a book.

2. We open the front door to your shop. What can we see as we cross the threshold?

Old gym benches stacked against the wall, repurposed as bookshelves…. An old school science table displaying the most beautiful of our picture books. Old school desks as tables. Clouds floating from the ceiling. A gallery of the original artwork from hundreds of beloved children’s books, including the work of Axel Scheffler, Nick Sharratt, Chris Riddell, Simon James, Jill Murphy, Anthony Browne, Helen Craig, Catherine Rayner, Emma Yarlett, David Roberts and many more…

3. What’s the most unusual request you’ve had in store? – if you can tell us.

Hmmmmm… We don’t get many unusual requests. I suppose it was a family coming in asking how cheap I could let them have the books and, when I explained that we couldn’t offer the kind of discounts available to larger retailers, they took pictures of all the books they wanted and informed me they were going to buy them from Amazon…

4. Do you have anything that’s unique to your shop? What makes you stand out?

We have our BiblioKids subscription service that offers a tailored monthly book sent to each child, with a record for families who want to check what they have already had and what their preferences are. We have our tree to read under, and our tent to read in! Our gallery of original children’s book illustrations.

5. Do you have any tips on which books will be big this year?

We’ve been quite good at spotting trends – we were selling feminist books for kids before they were popular, shipping them over from the States when we couldn’t source them in the UK. Hopefully more inclusive titles will become more popular.

6. If you could only recommend one book for the rest of your life which book would it be?

That is the meanest thing to ask of a Bibliophile! I suppose the book that I try to push into the hands of every child at one point or another is ‘A Necklace of Raindrops’ by Joan Aitken, illustrated by Jan Pienkowski. It was my favourite as a child and it is a book full of magic.

7. Let us know how we can find you.

Our physical shop is in Bedford, a wonderful town on River Great Ouse, home to many wonderful independent shops and businesses. We do have a mail order service, via email (nowthen@rogansbooks.co.uk) and our gallery of original children’s book illustrations can be found at https://shop.rogansbooks.co.uk

However, for our daily posts about our favourite new books, passions, events and all things booky, check out our Facebook page, Twitter and Instagram accounts.

(I don’t receive any payment or have any vested interest in any sales that may result from this post. The sole intent of the feature is to highlight the many fabulous bookshops out there. Happy shopping!)

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