A Pale View of Hills 

Dulwich Hill branch manager, radio personality, and book selling superstar, Morgan Smith tells us how it is.

A steep learning curve

 - Wednesday, June 04, 2014

In the absence of D'Hill's expert children's buyer, Liesel Enoch, who is away on compassionate leave, I have been thrown into the deep end of children's bookselling. Of course, over the past four years working here (yes, we've been open 4 years in June!) I've been on a steep learning curve regarding this very specialist aspect of bookselling and it's been a delight. But actually having to see the sales reps and choose which books to buy is another thing altogether. Luckily, the reps are all very good at their jobs and have guided me beautifully through this minefield. 
Children today are blessed with the huge range of books available, from picture books through primary level to teens and young adults. People often bemoan that children these days are too immersed in computer games and social media and don't read, but our experience here on D'Hill is quite the opposite. It seems that all the various media feed off each other, with children eagerly buying books which inspired movies (Hunger Games, Divergent) or even the bestselling Minecraft manuals which, while not narratives, are books, after all. The emergence of series is also a wonderful thing, encouraging reluctant readers to keep reading until they've read them all. There's so much to excite almost any child.  

I certainly don't remember anything like it when I was a kid, or even going to a bookshop with my parents in Adelaide in the 50s/60s, but I do recall the joy of going to the local library. I was one of only a few children in any of my classes in primary and high school, who was considered a 'bookworm'. Hardly anyone read for pleasure. At 14, I was thrilled when a friend told me that the object of my teenage crush liked me too, because I read books. (Alas, dear reader, he left me for an older woman of 16!) So now I will attempt, not to review - I'd be too scared to do that-but point out a few kids' books that have caught my attention. Strangely, two books just arrived about lion statues. In one, by Beatrice Alemagna called A Lion in Paris, a lion prowls the Paris streets, alone and curious and wondering why no-one is scared of him. He likes Paris very much and when he eventually comes across a plinth, he decides to settle there, happy ever after. The story is inspired by the lion statue in the Place Denfort-Rochereau, built in the late 19th century, which the author suggests is a much-loved and benign lion. Perhaps the same statue also inspired Margaret Wild's book, The Stone Lion, but her story goes in reverse, with the statue coming alive in order to save two homeless children. Both books are beautifully written but A Lion in Paris shines with stunning illustrations and a wonderful, large landscape format perfect for teachers to read to a class. 
To read a real children's book review, turn to the children's page in this issue where you will find a terrific review by a Dulwich customer Kai. I raise a glass to children's authors, illustrators and booksellers everywhere.