Inspiring Older Readers
Curious Otter Books, Ottery St Mary
It is always so pleasing to stumble across an unexpected independent bookshop. I have visited family living in Ottery St Mary in Devon for many years and didn't even know it existed! This little town is famous for a couple of very strange traditions, the first of which is 'Tar Barrels', a truly terrifying community event which takes place every November when apparently sane people run through the many narrow streets with blazing barrels of tar strapped to their backs for fun. The second is 'Pixie Day' which falls in June when children dress up and then tie up and kidnap the local vicar from his church in celebration of a local legend when real pixies kidnapped the bellringers from the same church in the fifteenth century. All this seems to indicate that it is a place with a strongly imaginative, creative albeit eccentric streak that certainly needs a bookshop. It is of course also the birthplace of Samuel Coleridge who clearly imbibed this rather special atmosphere along with all his other influences to produce some wonderful poetry.
The bookshop is situated on the busy main road towards Exeter and has two big bright windows to entice the passers by. The large room at the front is packed with a good range of paperbacks ranging from fiction through to a selection of hardbacks that reflect local interests such as wildlife and history. Some prominent space is also given over to some lovely painted wooden toys including a Noah's Ark which the shop owner invited a little boy to play with as his mother browsed. The general atmosphere was light airy and welcoming but where were all the childrens books? When I asked the friendly shop owner he smiled and pointed towards a ' 93/4 sign as being 'his little joke' above an archway and I was delighted to step into a back room dedicated to younger readers. The well displayed stock was a good mix of fiction and non fiction aimed at younger children through the range to young adult titles.
What a very pleasant surprise to learn that this delightful little shop has been in these premises for two years having moved from another location in the town where it was well established for ten years before. Sometimes I just don't notice things that are right under my nose!