'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.' - author Jackie French

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Guest Post: Kerri from the Itty Bitty Book Van

Credit: PhotoArt Geelong
We were delighted to discover The Itty Bitty Book Van - a gorgeous mobile bookshop. 'Enid' the vintage caravan travels to various locations in Victoria, inviting children to browse the shelves and 'test drive' the books in story time sessions. We asked owner Kerri Bennett to tell us how she chooses which titles make it on to the Itty Bitty Book Van shelves.

Selecting children’s books for the Itty Bitty Book Van is a difficult yet delightful task. Such limited shelf space inside the van means a rather careful selection process is required.  It’s still an evolving process but there are a number of criteria that we apply to help us take the emotion out the formidable task and we’d be happy to share them with you.

When we launched the Itty Bitty Book Van in February 2014 we always intended to stock a high percentage of Australian titles and the popularity of these titles have been so positive that we are now proud to have an entire wall of the van dedicated to Australian authored children’s books.

It’s often important for traditional bookstores to stock the latest releases ensuring their shelves always have something fresh to offer customers. The Itty Bitty Book Van’s travelling, pop up style means that our audience is ever-changing, so whilst we do stock some recent releases, a focus on timeless and quality publications is more important. We work towards a fine balance between titles that cross generations as well as stand out emerging titles. Because we are predominantly event based we can also have a bit of fun with themes that tie in with our destination and time of year.

We take care to curate our stock so that includes stories that are funny, heart-warming, thought provoking and graphically beautiful. Our focus is on quality rather than quantity.

The concept of the Itty Bitty Book Van is to provide a child friendly bookshop experience, allowing young readers the opportunity to browse and select their own books. Because of the hands on nature of our bookshop, there are some titles that simply don’t work well in the van. Titles with stickers or pop ups tend to be a little too well-loved, so we find it best to keep those titles as stock for our online shop rather than the physical one.  Titles that deal with confronting issues, that should perhaps be read in conjunction with a conversation, are also relegated to the Book Van website rather than the free browsing experience of the van.

Credit: PhotoArt Geelong

The majority of titles in the van are picture books however the back shelves of the van are dedicated to chapter books. We feature chapter books for emerging and confident readers, to titles for advanced junior readers. We include many picture and chapter book titles that have been recognised by various children’s literature bodies but do strategically avoid titles with strong mature themes as the van’s focus is children from birth to upper primary school age.

So that’s a little about what titles might make it onto the limited shelves in the Itty Bitty Book Van - but what books get the chop? To maximise our shelf space we intentionally choose to steer away from anything in mainstream commercial media.  It’s not that we don’t love a good superhero or a cute pink pig, but don’t we all get enough of them elsewhere? We also leave behind books packaged up with stuffed toys, bonus backpacks and other bits and pieces as we simply don’t have extra space for the extra stuff. With very few exceptions, colouring and activities books usually don’t make the cut.

Credit: PhotoArt Geelong

We love finding books that we know our audience will love and have a leather-bound note book that we always carry with us so we can note any printed treasures that we come across. Some books are suggested to us from our customers and some, almost magically, find us.  Whilst we are limited in how many books go into the Itty Bitty Book Van we know that every book inside is one of delight and is deserving of bookshelf space in someone’s home.

You can find out more about The Itty Bitty Book Van by visiting their Facebook page or website, where there is also an online bookshop available.

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