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Our Favorite Independent Book Stores for Kids

In the days before the jungles of Amazon, parents and kids actually had to be physically present when selecting a new book or novel or special magazine. Think back, when is the last time the bookworm(s) in your family got to give their favorite spot a little lovin’? Can’t remember? Well get those kids geared up because it’s time to take a trip to a place where princesses, detectives, witches, and historical figures reign supreme. So put away that laptop, forget about digital books for an afternoon and head out the door — there are books waiting to be read, songs waiting to be sung and worlds to discover!

San Francisco

Omnivore Books on Food
A bookstore dedicated solely to cookbooks? Yes, please! San Francisco residents are known foodies, which is why this Noe Valley delight offers tons of appeal. From Julia Child to local chefs Alice Waters and Thomas Keller, this is the spot for the best selection of cookbooks and other volumes relating to and revolving around culinary delights. On-going events include Pie Baking Contests and talks with Kelsey Banfield, the family friendly author of The Naptime Chef: Fitting Great Food into Family Life. The budding Food Network star in the house will go wild over the young chefs section, offering cookbooks for ages 3 on up. Kiddos can also experience a little Farm to Table action, as there are farm fresh eggs available on a daily basis.

3885 Cesar Chavez Street
San Francisco, Ca
415-282-4712
Hours: Mon – Sat 11:00 am – 6:00 pm, Sun 12:00 pm – 5:00 pm
Online: redtri.com/san-francisco/omnivore-books

Modern Times Bookstore
Located in the heart of the Mission district, Modern Times Books thrives on outspoken, open-minded authors and patrons. This is a great place to find books on equality, justice and the culture of society. Parents can get their dose of reality with selections such as My Baby Rides the Short Bus: The Unabashedly Human Experience of Raising Kids with Disabilities, there’s a wonderful selection of books printed in Spanish and the children’s section is pulled together with a thoughtfulness and social conscience not seen in many bookstores. Selections include titles such as The Butter Battle Book by Dr. Suess, the classic tale of disagreement between the Yooks and the Zooks and I Can Make the World a Better Place: A Kid’s Book about Stopping Violence. This a great place to select literature that will assist in children’s understanding about the importance of social responsibility.

2919 24th Street
San Francisco, Ca
415-282-9246
Hours: Mon – Sat 11:00 am – 8:00 pm, Sunday 11:00 am – 7:00 pm
Online: mtbs.com

Peninsula

Books Inc.
There are several locations of Books Inc. around the peninsula, including Burlingame, Mountain View and Palo Alto. This company is the West’s oldest independent bookseller and offers a multitude of events, clubs and even blogs appropriate for the whole family. From building your unborn baby’s book collection via registry to over 20 different book clubs for adults, Books Inc. is serious about having something for everyone. Each store invites patrons to meet the kid’s literature expert, so whether it’s Colleen, Diana or Courtney, parents and munchkins will have no problem with picking out a new story.

Online: booksinc.net

855 El Camino Real #74
Palo Alto, Ca
650-321-0600
Hours: Sun – Thurs: 9:00 am – 8:00 pm,  Fri & Sat: 9:00 am – 9:00 pm

301 Castro Street
Mountain View, Ca
650-428-1234
Hours: Sun -Thurs: 9:00 am to 10:00 pm,  Fri & Sat: 9:00 am to 11:00 pm

1375 Burlingame Avenue
Burlingame, Ca
650-685-4911
Hours: Mon – Sat: 9:00 am – 8:00 pm, Sun: 9:00 am-7:00 pm

Kepler’s Books
This independent bookstore is at the heart, figuratively and literally of Menlo Park and has a success story to inspire other small business owners. In 2005, simply unable to compete with big-box and online merchandisers, Kepler’s Books shuts its doors. Following community protests and a huge outpouring of support, Kepler’s reopened its doors a few short months thereafter and has part of the Menlo Park community ever since. A new generation of readers have grown up with this great store, as Kepler’s runs a very popular youth authors events in the store, at the park and around the community. They have story time for wee ones of every age, like “Grandparents Story Time with Lori Stewart”  and plenty of grown up events to be excited about too!

1010 El Camino Real
Menlo Park, Ca
650-324-4321
Hours: Mon 9 am – 6 pm, Tues – Thurs 9:00 am  9:00 pm, Fri & Sat: 9:00 am – 10:00 pm, Sun 10:00 am – 6:00 pm
Online: keplers.com

East Bay

Mr. Mopps’ Children’s Books and Toys
No list would be complete without Mr. Mopps’ Children’s Books and Toys. Moms and dads might not find much reading material here, but no matter, hands will be filled with overly excited children having discovered a bookstore created with little people in mind. Every classic can be found, from The Little House to Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile, the wiliest of crocodiles. Even more exciting is the recent addition of The Cavalcade of Kids!, a monthly open mic/stage event and variety show for budding thespians or performers happening on the 3rd Tuesday of each month from 4:00 pm – 5:00 pm at the store on MLK.  All types of acts are welcome. Singers, dancers, musicians, jugglers, yo-yo tricksters, poets, good jumpers, comedians, balloon twisters… the sky’s the limit! Call the store or stop by to sign up.

1405 Martin Luther King Jr. Way
Berkeley, Ca
510-525-9633
Hours: Tues – Fri 10:30 am – 6:30 pm, Sat & Sun 9:30 am – 5:30 pm

Rakestraw Books
Michael Chabon calls Rakestraw Books “‘a gem’: small, perfect, and the more you peer into it, endlessly deep.”  Locally owned and independently operated in Danville since 1973, this bookstore has long been a place for creativity at its finest. The employees have organized and conduct several types of book clubs, including American Classics and a Parent-Child group. Check out the website for an ongoing list of recommended reading for young children.

522 Hartz Avenue
Danville, Ca
925-837-7337
Hours: Mon – Thurs  9:00 am – 6:00 pm, Fri  9:00 am – 7:00 pm, Sat 9:00 am – 5:00 pm, Sun Noon – 5:00 pm
Online: rakestrawbooks.com

The Storyteller
A fabulous children’s bookstore with an amazingly knowledgeable staff and a super comprehensive selection of youth literature, from 0 months on up. Can’t quite remember the name of that one particular book you loved as a child? Chances are if you describe it to someone working at The Storyteller, they’ll be able to help. Don’t forget to head into the store for story time and a weekly puppet show.

30 Lafayette Circle
Lafayette, Ca
925-284-3480
Hours: Mon – Sat  9:30 am -6:00 pm

North Bay

Book Passage
Book Passage is one of the most successful bookstores in Marin County or all of the Bay Area, In Corte Madera, the cafe and main store cozily share the front space, stocked to the brim, shelves teeming with magazines and cards for all occasions. Patrons are enjoying lunch, reading books in chairs or carrying on enthusiastic conversations. In the back space, children’s books, toys, a used books room and a writing room prove Book Passage to be a literary destination for many. Every week Book Passage welcomes authors to speak, including favorites Elizabeth Gilbert and Judy Collins or local resident Elizabeth Weil. Every Sunday at 11:00 am, veteran singer-songwriter Christopher Smith leads a sing-along for the kiddos, the perfect chance for mom and dad to flip a coin to see who gets to wander the aisles and who gets to enjoy the music. Ongoing renovations have patrons excited to see a new and improved space!

51 Tamal Vista Boulevard
Corte Madera, Ca 94925
415-927-0960
Hours: Mon – Sun 9:00 am – 9 pm
Online: bookpassage.com

Depot Book Store and Cafe
Located in the old train depot in charming downtown Mill Valley, this bookstore is on the small side but it more than compensates with the delightful cafe menu, the amazing kids selection, a fantastic selection of stateside and international magazines and the sunny seating outside the shop. Downtown Mill Valley is almost never empty and the wide patio and tables allow for tots to burn off some steam. There is wine on the menu, which makes for a potentially very relaxing hour of reading in the sun or even meeting friends for a book club meeting.

87 Throckmorton Ave
Mill Valley, Ca 94941
415-383-2665
Hours: Open Daily 7:00am – 7:00pm
Online: depotbookstore.com

—Gabrielle Cullen

Photo credit: Apolinar Fonseca via Flickr,  Erik Eti Smit via Flickr, Alex Ragone via Flickr, sowenderful via Flickr

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