Connecting minds with the power of words

Rupanjana Dutta Monday 07th March 2016 20:12 EST

Over 40 years old, the Children's Bookshop in Muswell Hill is a book lover's paradise. Packed with colourful books from floor to ceiling, there is vast variety for everyone- young as well as experienced readers. Oldest in London, this independent bookstore is quite well known in the wider children's world, as the best in the area.

Sanchita Basu De Sarkar, who is quite young herself, is the new owner and manager of the bookstore. The shop was run by the Agnew family for 25 years. It was bought by Lesley and John Agnew and was passed on to their daughter Kate Agnew.

However Sanchita took over the ownership of the bookstore in January 2015, and this cosy store has recently been listed as one of London's top 5 children's bookstores by Time Out.

Daughter of Indian journalists Dipankar De Sarkar and Shrabani Basu, who is also renowned as an author, Sanchita studied English Literature at East Anglia. With the final aim to be in the Publishing industry, she started her journey with the Children's Bookshop, and eventually found it more and more difficult to leave. And when the owner decided that it was time to pass it on, everything came together quite organically.

Having a four decade history, of course the question arises if the new ownership has brought in any noticeable changes. But Sanchita thinks such a beloved institution as it already is, it does not need to undergomany changes.

“It is very much about keeping it going with staff, some of who have been since 80s, even before I was born, including one Meena Jethwa, who I refer to often. So I am just continuing with something I have always done. But taking over the bookshop, there are new things, certain trends of book selling that I am equally interested to introduce, over the coming period. Things like children's literature festival, doing special book subscription, having more presence online, enabling people to buy books online.”

While children of this era have moved on from reading books to video games, Sanchita thinks some children are still reading- just the medium has changed. The bookshop's readership varies from toddlers to 13 year olds, who come in with or without their parents. The store is recommended by the schools around, to its students as well astheir parents.

With the occasional requests for Tintin, Amar Chitra Katha, Ramayana and Mahabharata by Asian parents, Sanchita's favourite book at the moment is Heartsong by Kevin Crossley-Holland, that she recommends to her young readers.

The bookhop organises bookclubs, and discussions with children, trying to engage and encourage them to constructive debates and critical analysis. They also take part in book fairs and around the World Book Day, the staff dress up as characters from popular novels, organise story times and give away goodie bags.

 "The gift of literature is best given when they are young,” said Sanchita. “That way it stays with you the whole way through. It will be lovely to see more and more young people coming in.”

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