By Linda Harris
In Decatur, authors are rockstars. And Little Shop of Stories, Decatur’s independent bookstore for children and their adults, rocks literary arts every day.
You know you are in a special place when you are greeted just inside the front door by Atticus, the 4-foot tall green metal frog sitting down, reading a book to the smaller frog seated on his lap. You are tempted to stop and admire the unique piece of art but beyond the doorway beckon the display of books and signed posters and fun, unique spaces.
The Little Shop of Stories website explains they are “the best independent bookstore for kids and the grownups they become.” Their specialty is “finding just the right book for you to fall in love with, no matter your age, reading level, or interest.” In addition to books, they offer unique and special gift ideas including plush toys, activity kits, educational games, puzzles and more.
My grandsons all love going to Little Shop and have since they were toddlers. First they gravitated to the Thomas the Train table. Now they are captivated by the design of the penny floor. Little Shop asked folks to contribute pennies and used them to create a beautiful design on the floor in front of some of the bookshelves. You have to see it to believe it.
Recently Little Shop expanded into the space next door and they created a special Platform 9 ¾ for Harry Potter fans. Kids can go through the tiny door and end up in a special reading room just for them.
The staff is knowledgeable and can find something for everyone – even adults. Join their mailing list and receive monthly e-newsletters letting you know about the ongoing book clubs, from Kids and Companions to Poetry and Wine, and when to sign up for their summer camps like Jedi Academy, Comics Camp, and Junior Detectives Camp. Special events at Little Shop are the norm – like the Root Beer Festival held before the Decatur Craft Beer Festival.
The newest addition to their events and activities is what they are calling the Kindness Project. Isis Amusa, a Decatur High School student, wrote an article about it for the school newspaper, Carpe Diem. She interviewed Little Shop co-owner Diane Capriola who explained the Kindness Project and its goals this way:
Diane and her staff had concerns around the hateful and divisive speech, atmosphere and tone of the election season and how it was impacting kids. To counter the hate, Little Shop created the Year of Kindness project. Using monthly book club themes like Understanding the Skin I’m In, The Refugee Experience, The Environment, Veterans, and Understanding Myself and Others Through Poetry, the Kindness Project aims to encourage compassionate and thoughtful dialogue with kids.
Diane believes that books can be great conversation starters and, “This can help parents and teachers have conversations with kids about confusing or difficult ideas that the kids might not understand.”
Isis quoted Diane in her article as follows, “I love kids, I love stories and I love bringing the two together…With this project, I hope the kids learn that through small acts of kindness you can make a big difference…I believe that we learn empathy through reading books… When you read a book, you are putting yourself in someone else’s shoes.”
What I love about Little Shop of Stories is their enthusiasm and love for reading and their commitment to encouraging both kids and adults to read in a fun, artsy, and what some might call “quirky” atmosphere. They are happy to see you and they are always coming up with something new and creative to keep you coming back.
If you find yourself in Decatur, be sure to check out Little Shop of Stories. It is located on the square right next door to Starbucks.