The Shop Around the Corner

You've Got Mail. The Shop Around The Corner

You've got mail. Shop Around The Corner.

Once upon a time, in a world when I was hooked on romantic comedies and I had an awkward teen haircut, my heart settled into the corner of a little bookshop in New York City.

Its facade was green, and its glow was golden.

The effervesce of Kathleen Kelly (Meg Ryan) made that little cosy bookshop for children all the more appealing.

I fantasised about that little nook. How good would it be to own / live in / work in a book shop like Kathleen Kelly’s? How good would it be to have a little cosy corner that attracted children like moths to a flame, and filled their little hearts with books?

That was back in 1998, when You’ve Got Mail was released. A few years later,  the real life bus I caught to university passed a little suburban shop called Books and Beans. I pressed my nose against the pane. Wait! There is was. The shop around the corner had found its way to my otherwise ordinary Brisbane suburb.

I was studying visual arts at the time, and to say I was disillusioned with making non-art out of styrofoam and other found non-arty-like materials was an understatement. My hopes of learning how to paint were flushed down the toilet along with the sentiment that anyone with creative talent can make a living in the arts. My lecturers wanted to drum into us that making a living from art was a thankless, and most likely impossible task.

Anyway, six weeks into the course,  I withdrew and applied at the bookstore. I got the job. As well as making cappuccinos and serving cupcakes, I was responsible for dressing like a fairy and reading books to kids.

It was kind of like a small heaven, with a Queensland climate.

I loved sitting and reading with the children, answering their impossible questions about where my wings were and why I was so big. Why wasn’t I invisible? I couldn’t say.

I read happy books, sad books, funny books. I even read scary books, if you count Julia Donaldson’s Room On A Broom. (I didn’t find the story about a witch helping animals scary, but a mother rang the shop the next morning to complain about me giving her child nightmares.)

I left Books and Beans a few months later, not because I didn’t love it to pieces, but because I was an itinerant, hapless 19 year old.

When you asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, chances were, if it was between the years of 1998 and 2005, I would have told you I wanted to own a children’s book store. The Shop Around The Corner would have burned in my memory as I told you about my dream.

Bookshops will always have a special place in my heart. I hope they live forever.

What was your childhood dream? Do you have a favourite bookstore? 

For more tales from the sunshine house, book ideas and imaginative activities, visit me over at Facebook. You can also sign up for my monthly newsletter, which is full of sunny goodness.

Linking with Essentially Jess.

  • I was absolutely going to be your co-worker in that bookstore. Definitely. x

  • LydiaCLee

    I love bookshops – I think it’s a sad state of affairs that they’re vanishing. I like that james Patterson does a lot to promote bookshops…whether you read him or not, he’s spruiking the bookshops, not just the books…

  • I would love to own a bookstore, for all the reasons you have listed and more. Bookstores are one of those truly magical places that we all have a responsibility to make sure they do live on forever xx

    • Yes…we do. I have started buying direct from our local book seller, rather than online. It’s more expensive, but I need her!

  • Hugzilla

    My childhood dream was very similar! I wanted to be a librarian. It didn’t quite turn out that way but every job I have tends to lead back to words, and writing, in one way or the other.

  • I love that movie and that book store too!

  • I travel an hour away to my fav book store. I love it there because they have such a great selection and because the owner inspires me. She gives me a full run down on all the latest, bestest books that I need to experience. Her love of books radiates and transfers straight across to me. I often spend an hour in there just browsing. It’s always worth the drive because it renews my love for the old fashioned paperback 🙂

    • That sounds amazing Vicki. Good on you for making the effort to get there! Supporting local bookshops. Yay! x

  • I loved that bookstore too, and I think I would have happily worked in one for a little while.
    I have never really had a favourite book store, because they were all big chains. My mum did take me to the Christian Book shop occasionally though, and I loved it there because she always bought something.

    • Often it’s just the positive association we have with a place that makes it special. x

  • I can just imagine how amazing you were reading books to those children. Books have always been a way for me to escape my often boring life, well when I was a young girl, and even now when life isn’t always as peachy as I want it to be x

    • If I had time to read, they would be my escape too. I hope I am not too old and grey before I get to read a novel again. x

  • Renee at Mummy, Wife, Me

    I hope they live forever too! What a lovely memory, Zanni. Do you have any photos of you as a story reading fairy? I would love to see them 🙂 Like I said on FB recently, I’m a fan of the Dymocks store in Brisbane city. It is amazing. There is a smaller store near my work though that I’ve never been into. Archives book store. There is an odd guy who I often see sitting on the steps of that store. I don’t know if he works there or just likes to sit and read. He dresses in trousers, a white shirt and a vest. He never wears shoes. I’d say he’d been in his thirties. I’d like to know his story. Perhaps I should visit that book store and find out 🙂

    • Yes…go find out his story Renee…I love those characters floating around about the place. x

  • OMG Zanni – this is one of my most fave movies ever and that book store also won my heart. The cosy environment, the twinkle lights, the snow outside and the co workers who are more like family. I dreamed about owning a book store just like that one xx

  • TeganMC

    Oh that sounds like a perfect job. I would love to work in an old book store, the ones that are shown in British movies with the ladders. I would love to be surrounded by the smell of books every single day.

    • Yes…that musty smell. There were cute shops like that in Calton in Melbourne. I loved them x

  • Kathy www.yinyangmother.com

    This is so lovely Zanni – it feels like it was truly childhood dream almost morphing into adult reality – and why not?! I had dreams about writing, and later about being a journalist/war correspondent, bravely exposing the world’s wrongs and somehow changing them. The stuff of books mostly. Don’t you think you are living at least part of your dream – I think I am/have – and who know’s what is to come! XX

  • I loved that movie and the bookshop also, Zanni! That sounds like an awesome job.

  • TwitchyCorner

    So much traditional charm is disappearing in a world of multinational, global homogenisation- sorry! You are right, the little bookstores are special and so are all the disappearing little one-offs like the local French bakery-cafe we once had.

    One of my first dreams was to work with animals or be a vet. Turns out my stomach had other ideas! The other was to follow in Enid Blyton and Roald Dahl’s footsteps. It’s not too late, is it? #teamIBOT

    • Never too late for writing! That’s the best thing about it! x

  • Gorgeous gorgeous gorgeous. We have a lot in common. I would absolutely love to own a children’s book store. They are magical when they are just like the one above. I love bookstores in general, and always make an effort to purchase in a bookstore. It’s such a shame to see more of them closing then opening. I think for book sotres to continue being relevant, and for price point to be irrelevant, then they need to whimsical just like your photos above. You can’t help but love a place like the one above and buy what you find on the shelves. What a perfect job you had.
    Damn it, now I want to open a book store again!

    • Do it…it would be so lovely with your magical touch! x

  • Oh this brought back wonderful memories of sitting in the library at my school in year 6 and listening to the BEST reader of all time, the librarian. She was very important to me at the time although I can’t remember her name now. To be fair to me though, it was my first year in public school (from dreaded homeschool) and I never saw that librarian again after that year. I told my husband about her. He told me he loved story time in year 5, his hot teacher would sit on the desk and he would see right up her skirt. NOT THE SAME THING, DAVE!!!! – visiting for IBOT

    • Not same thing at all! Ah, guys. When I was in kindy I had a favourite teacher who would read to us, and let us brush her hair while she read. We loved it!

  • Grace

    Oh, I loved Kathleen Kelly’s bookstore! And I could just see you as a Queensland version of her! It’s so sad that so many book stores are closing down. My favourite is on Oxford St. I haven’t been there in ages but I wish it had a coffee shop that would entice me to go back. Beautifully written, Zanni x

    • Coffee shops in book stores are always a good idea Grace!

  • Lisa

    I loved that movie, I can’t not go passed a bookstore…and I have to buy books in pairs so they won’t be lonely. How weird is that? Each bookstore I go to has it’s own vibe.

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