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A Good Read: Our Favorite Independent Bookstores

Remember hunkering down in the bookstore’s kid section discovering a favorite like CuordoroyFerdinand, or Harriet the Spy? You happily lost yourself in a new story’s pages. Want to bring that same armchair travel and imagination alive in your little bibliophiles? Here are our favorite Bay Area indie bookstores catering to kids. Plus, since bookstore outings are just better with yummy treats or a ride on a swing, we hunted down nearby places for nibbles and play.

Boy-reading-bookstore-floor

Photo credit: Tim Pierce via Flickr Creative Commons

San Francisco

Bookshop West Portal
Families dig outings to the West Portal hood with its retro feel and kid-friendly bookstore. Bookshop West Portal has a specialist that keeps current on everything kidlet. With built-in benches for lounging and a third of the store dedicated to children, this low-key bookshop is an SF favorite. Its open layout means you can browse for grown-up reads and still keep an eye on the kiddos. Bonus: The YA section is outstanding.

80 West Portal Ave.
San Francisco, Ca
415-564-8080
Hours: 10 a.m.–9 p.m. every day
Online: bookshopwestportal.com 

Insider Tip: Bring your kid to the 80-year-old  Shaw’s for some Mitchell’s ice cream or old time candies. Then run it off at West Portal Playground.

BoyraisinghandbookstorePhoto Credit: Green Apple Books 

 

Green Apple Books
You’ll discover books jammed ceiling to floor at this 50-year-old literary institution. They stock both new and used children’s books in its small yet mighty kids’ sections at both locations. Plus, you can bring in yours and baby’s old books to trade—just make sure they are in decent condition (read: not covered in spit-up). Check out the bargain bins out front for some deep discounts. Their new location, the spacious Green Apple Books on the Park is conveniently located on 9th Ave. where the Golden Gate Park meets Inner Sunset. Check their Facebook page for their BYO-pajamas story nights.

506 Clement St.
San Francisco, Ca
415-387-2272
Hours: 10 a.m.–10:30 p.m every day
Online: greenapplebooks.com

Books on the Park
1231 9th Ave.
San Francisco, Ca
415-742-5833
Hours:   10 a.m.– 10 p.m. every day
Online: greenapplebooks.com

Insider Tip: Books on the Park is adjacent to the 55-acre SF Botanical Gardens—just the spot to meander pathways, little bridges and ponds. Every Saturday through October they have nature crafts and outdoor games. Hungry? Tuck into Park Chow and order the crowd-favorite: Ginger Cake with pumpkin ice cream.

DinosaurinbookstorewindowPhoto Credit: via Booksmith’s Facebook Page

The Booksmith
Let your little chicks fly straight to the back of the store, where they will find hundreds of titles for babies all the way up to young adults. The Booksmith offers complimentary gift-wrap and one of the best selections of greeting cards in the city, so you can one-stop-shop for that last-minute birthday party gift.

1644 Haight St.
San Francisco, Ca
415-863-8688
Hours: Mon.–Sat., 10 a.m.–10 p.m.; Sun., 10 a.m.–8 p.m.
Online: booksmith.com

Insider tip: Right next-door, Sparrow Bar & Kitchen’s modern American cuisine menu also has the usual munchkin options. It’s a splendid place with outdoor patio seating to get your grub on while enjoying the Haight with your child.

ChristopherbooksPhoto Credit: Kevin Y. via Yelp

Christopher Books
Stop into this charming corner Potrero Hill bookstore whose motto is “Explore the Ancient Art of Page Turning.” The size of a postage stamp, it still has an excellent children’s selection to explore. You will delight in the friendly and helpful staff and their hassle-free exchange policy. That plus free gift wrap makes this a double-win in case your preschooler has a birthday party to attend around the corner at Recess.

1400 18th St.
San Francisco, Ca
415-255-8802
Hours: 10 a.m.–9 p.m. every day
Online: christophersbooks.com

Insider Tip: For spectacular views and space to run, drive up to McKinley Square’s playground. For little thrill seekers, surprise your reading buddies with a drive down Vermont—SF’s true crookedest street.

father and son via cc_kelly sikkemaPhoto credit: Kelly Sikkema via Flickr Creative Commons

East Bay

Pegasus Books
Books, books, and more books. New books, used books, big books, small books. No Bay Area indie bookstore list is complete without mentioning the good ol’ Pegasus. In various incarnations for over 45 years, there are now three Pegasus locations, and we love them all. The Solano Ave. store probably has the biggest kid’s section, but each location has something for everyone.

Solano
1855 Solano Ave.
Berkeley, Ca
510-525-6888

Downtown
2349 Shattuck Ave.
Berkeley, Ca
510-649-1320

Rockridge
5560 College Avenue
Oakland, Ca
510-652-6259

Hours: Mon.–Thurs., 9 a.m.–10 p.m.; Fri. & Sat., 9 a.m.–10:45 p.m.; Sun., 10 a.m.–10 p.m. (All locations)
Online: pegasusbookstore.com 

Insider Tip: At the Solano location, grab a waffle cone full of organic yumminess at iScream. Then head East on Solano, turn left at Alameda and take a sharp right onto Indian Rock Stairways Path (between the corner and second house)—you and your little steppers can follow the staircases past a few streets and up to Indian Rock Park for breathtaking Bay views.

Diesel Book Store, LarkspurPhoto credit: GoodnCrazy via Flickr Creative Commons

Mr. Mopps’ Children’s Books
This annex of the much adored toy shop, Mr. Mopps’ Children’s Books is located four doors down from the toy store and is a bookstore built with little people in mind. While moms and dads won’t find much reading material for themselves here, they’ll definitely find plenty to read to the kids, including some nostalgic favorites. They are a proud source of Equal Reads Books, which highlights books for their excellence in diversity. Click here to read more about our visit to the store.

1417A Martin Luther King Jr. Way
Berkeley, Ca
510-525-9633
Hours: Tues.–Fri., 10:30 a.m.–6:30 p.m.; Sat. & Sun.,9:30 a.m.–5:30 p.m.; closed Mondays
Online: mrmopps.net/books

Insider Tip: Exercise those little bodies with a brisk 7-minute walk up Vine St. to Shattuck Ave. to dream of a date night at Chez Panisse then grab yourselves some slices of pizza at the famous Cheese Board Bakery.


GIrl-reading-bookPhoto credit: via Steven Depolo on Flickr creative commons

Towne Center Books
Located in a 1920s French Laundry in quaint Downtown Pleasanton, Towne Center Books’ passionate staff offers themed children’s events (i.e. Pancake & Books w/Santa) as well as parties for just released picture books. Don’t you love when you can browse for your own books while your child is finding hers? With over 7,000 titles, their children’s lit section is half of the store. This community gem also offers educational toys and your bookworm might delight in the hosted birthday parties. (Think: Pirate, Science and Princess themes.)

555 Main St.
Pleasanton, Ca
925-846-8826
Hours: Mon.–Thurs., 10 a.m – 9 p.m.; Fri. & Sat., 10 a.m. –10 p.m.; Sun. 11a.m. – 6p.m
Online: townecenterbooks.com

Insider Tip: Feel like raising a pinky? Head to English Rose around the corner and enjoy “Princess Penelope’s Fancy Afternoon Tea” while chatting about your newest Fancy Nancy purchase.

The Book Shop
With an impressive array of books both new and used, this is one of the few places where you can snap up gently used kids’ books (including board books!) and trade in your own. With a friendly staff and a host of recommended picks, this is one of those bookstores that is both well-organized but also a treasure-hunt. Going strong since 1960, it is a book lover’s dream.

1007 B. St.
Hayward, Ca
510-538-3943
Hours: Mon.–Thurs., 10 a.m.–6 p.m.; Fri., 10 a.m.–8 p.m.; Sat., 9 a.m.–8 p.m.; closed Sundays.
Online: haywardbookshop.com

Insider tip: Just up the street, indulge in crepes or cookies at Eko Coffee Bar or the frozen treats at Yogurt Hill. Plan a short 5-minute drive to see the Koi, turtles and pagodas at the free Hayward Japanese Gardens—a perfect place for little legs to run and explore.

Where's-Waldo-Hunt

Photo credit: Rakestraw Books

Rakestraw Books
Locally owned and independently operated in Danville since 1973, this bookstore has long been a place for creativity at its finest. The employees organize and conduct book clubs on the third Thursday of the month at 4:30 p.m. and run story time on Fridays at 9:30 a.m. Check their website for frequent author/illustrator events.

3 Railroad Ave.
Danville, Ca
925-837-7337
Hours: Mon.–Fri., 9 a.m.– 6 p.m., Sat., 9 a.m.– 5 p.m., Sun., 12–5 p.m.
Online: rakestrawbooks.com

Insider Tip: Want something cold and delicious after book browsing? Tutti Frutti Frozen Yogurt is in the same complex.

The Storyteller
A hands-down community favorite, this fabulous children’s bookstore has an amazingly knowledgeable staff and an uber 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. They also offer lots of kids’ workshops, including seasonal writing courses, Junior Editor program (ages 8 and up) and story time.

3506-E Mt. Diablo Blvd.
Lafayette, Ca
925-284-3480
Hours: Mon.–Sat., 9:30 a.m.–6 p.m.; closed Sundays.
Online: facebook.com/TheStorytellerBookstore

Insider tip: It is right behind Peet’s Coffee (so handy!) and Whole Foods at Plaza Center.

Reading-Bug-BookstorePhoto credit: Reading B. via Yelp

Peninsula

The Reading Bug
Be sure to visit this family owned San Carlos gem! This heartfelt shop holds book signings with notable children’s authors and amazing story times run by the owner. Designed to look more like an enchanted forest than a typical bookstore, this paradise of bookish events will thrill the kids and aims to help parents raise a reader. And be sure and check out some of the evening classes (for moms and dads) like yoga and Bollywood dance! Morning storytimes run daily. The owner, who is known for her lovely signing voice, runs the Wednesday story times which are geared especially for your book slurping babies and toddler, but all kids are welcome that day.

785 Laurel St.
San Carlos, Ca
650-591-0100
Hours: Tues., Thurs., Fri., & Sat., 10:30 a.m.–6:30 p.m.; Wed., 10:30 a.m.–7 p.m.; Sun., 10:30 a.m.–4 p.m.; closed Mondays.
Story times: 11 a.m. every day
Open to all but especially geared to Babies & Toddlers Wed., 11 a.m.
Stories and Free Crafts for ages 3+, Wed., 3 p.m.
Online: thereadingbug.com 

Insider tip: You cannot go wrong with Cowabunga Ice Cream right next door. In addition, to work off some energy before heading back on the road, take a 10-minute walk to the delightful and leafy Burton Park which sports a splash pad, tot and school age play sections plus bocce courts. Hiller Aviation Museum is just a short flight over the freeway.

Keplers-BookstorePhoto credit: Kepler’s Books

Kepler’s Books
With its decades-long loyal followings by Beat Poets, musicians such as the Grateful Dead and Stanford professors, if there is an independent bookstore worthy of the title “Powerhouse” Kepler’s Books in Menlo Park is it.  Established in 1955, Kepler’s fell on hard times in 2005, unable to compete with big-box stores and shut its doors. Following community protests and a huge outpouring of support, Kepler’s reopened a few short months thereafter and has remained a part of the community ever since. Kepler’s draws very popular author/illustrators to events in the store, at the park and around the community. Check their website for latest events.

1010 El Camino Real
Menlo Park, Ca
650-324-4321
Hours: Mon.–Sat., 9 a.m.– 10 p.m.; Sun., 9 a.m.– 8 p.m.
Online: keplers.com

Insider tip: The fantastic Café Borrone right next to Kepler’s has lovely pastries among lunch and dinner options and outdoor seating next to a landmark fountain.  Nearby Burgess Park offers a large and shady playground for strolling and picnicking with the bonus of watching the train roll by.

Linden-Tree-BookstorePhoto Credit: 100 First Street

Linden Tree Children’s Books
The Village of Los Altos’ Linden Tree Books is a 40-year-old area family favorite—devoted 90 percent to children! You will love this fully renovated store with in and outdoor seating areas and loads of books to sift through. Be sure to check their jam-packed event calendar—your little culture lover will be dazzled by author signings, music and magic shows every month. Mom and Dad can select from the solid adult section, with its plethora of cookbooks and fiction.

265 State St
Los Altos, Ca
650-949-3390
Hours: Mon, Tue., Wed., & Fri. 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.; Thur. & First Fridays; 10 a.m. – 8 p.m., Sat & Sun 9:30-5:30 p.m.
Online: lindentreebooks.com

Insider tip: After your Linden Tree visit, pick up a cold treat at small batch Tin Pot Creamery. Then take a five-minute walk to gorgeous Shoup Park for play on its two playgrounds and exploration of the dry Adobe Creek bed that you can use to walk or run all the way to the wooden platform observation decks of Redwood Grove Nature Preserve.

Fancy-Nancy-RVPhoto Credit: Hicklebee’s via Facebook

South Bay

Hicklebee’s
Ask any savvy Bay Area parent what the best bookshop in the South Bay is, and you’ll likely get a resounding answer: Hicklebee’s. Serving Silicon Valley since 1979, families attest to its exemplary staff, wide selection of books and killer author events (JK Rowling, Rosemary Wells, Judith Viorist). With bonus features like Book of the Month Clubs (you can give as a gift!) their motto is “Extraordinary books for the entire family.” Don’t miss the Hicklebee’s Museum—a collection of items that make stories come to life. These clever items include Charlotte’s web, Ruby’s dress, of Max and Ruby fame, and even an Indian Cupboard.

1378 Lincoln Ave.
San Jose, Ca
408-292-8880
Hours: Mon. – Sat., 10 a.m.–5:30 p.m.; Thurs. & Fri., 10 a.m.–8 p.m.; Sun., noon–4 p.m.
Online: hicklebees.com 


Books-Inc-Curious-GeorgePhoto credit: Books Inc. Mountain View
 

Books Inc.
With orgins dating back to the Gold Rush, Books Inc. declares it is the oldest bookseller in the West. To be fair, there are eleven different locations of this glorious indie-chain, including four in San Francisco, and two in the East Bay. We’re putting it under the South Bay heading but there are also Peninsula (Burlingame and the SF airport) stores.  All locations are clean, well-organized and feature an in-store children’s lit expert. They’ve got a kids’ blog, several age-appropriate book groups and even a baby book registry!  Check the website for the nearest location and join one of the many book clubs they host, or just pop in to peruse some of the finest selections of books in the Bay.

1375 Burlingame Ave.
Burlingame, Ca
650-685-4911
Hours: Mon.–Sat, 9 a.m.– 8 p.m.; Sun., 9 a.m.– 7 p.m.
Children’s story time: Sun., 11 a.m.  

301 Castro St.
Mountain View, Ca
Hours: Sun.–Thurs., 9 a.m.–10 p.m.; Fri. & Sat., 9 a.m.–11 p.m.
Children’s story times: 1st & 3rd Wed. 10:30 a.m.

855 El Camino Real #74
Palo Alto, Ca
650-321-0600
Hours: Sun.–Thurs, 9 a.m.– 8 p.m.; Fri. & Sat., 9 a.m.– 8p.m.
Children’s story time: Sat., 2 p.m. 

Online: booksinc.net

Larry-Loves-San-Francisco

Photo credit: Joanna T.  via Yelp 

Marin County

Book Passage
The Bay Area’s liveliest bookstore is the premier location for author events, with the likes of Elizabeth Gilbert, Isabelle Allende, Hillary Clinton and Michael Chabon gracing its reading room or Ferry Building locations. The main store shares space with a cafe and the back includes children’s books, toys, and an entire used book room. It’s been a long-standing tradition that every Sunday at 11 a.m. during the school year, there’s  a sing-along for the kids. Book Passage’s small store in the snazzy Ferry Building in San Francisco may have a small footprint, but boasts floor-to-ceiling books with a great little kids’ section. It’s a perfect place to snag San Francisco-centric gift books like Count to Sleep San Francisco and Smarty Marty’s Got Game. Plus you can watch ferries, tankers and sail boats come and go, so it’s an epic win for the family.

51 Tamal Vista Blvd.
Corte Madera, Ca
415-927-0960
Hours: Mon– Fri., 8a.m. – 8:30p.m.; Sat. & Sun., 9 a.m.–9:30 p.m.
Sing-a-Long for Kids: Every Sunday 11 a.m.
Online:
bookpassage.com

Book Passage Ferry Building
1 Ferry Building
San Francisco, CA 94111
415-835-1020
Hours: Mon.– Fri. 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Sat. 8 a.m.–6 p.m.; Sun. 10 a.m.–6 p.m.
Online: bookpassage.com

Copperfield’s Books
Located in the 4th Street shopping district of downtown San Rafael, Copperfield’s carries an expansive selection of books for kids and teens. They host an abundant schedule of children’s story times, children’s book author visits and special nights for teachers—check their website for current event times. The also store houses a Taylor Maid Organic Coffee Bar, because nothing goes better with a book than a cup of joe. (Other locations include Petaluma, Sebastopol, Santa Rosa, and Napa).

850 4th St.
San Rafael, Ca
415-524-2800
Hours: Sun. -Thurs., 10 a.m. -7 p.m.: Fri. -Sat.,  10 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Online: copperfieldsbooks.com/san-rafael

                                                                                                                                                                                           

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Photo Credit: Diesel Bookstore via Facebook 

Diesel, A Bookstore
This bookstore is quickly becoming a favorite among Marin County parents, and it also has locations in Brentwood and Oakland. The North Bay shop is nestled within the  Marin Country Mart, making it ideal for a morning stroll, an after-school stop or a post-dinner browse, and the store hosts all kinds of fun events like Kid’s Pajama Parties.

Marin Country Mart
2419 Larkspur Landing Circle
Larkspur, Ca
415-785-8177
Hours: Mon.–Fri., 10 a.m.–7 p.m.; Sat., 10 a.m.–6 p.m.; Sun., 10 a.m.–5 p.m.
Online: dieselbookstore.com/larkspur

Insider tip: While you’re at Marin Country Mart, indulge at Three Twins Organic Ice Cream or pop over to the gourmet Rustic Bakery for a Meyer lemon croissant for you and a cinnamon puff or baby kouign amann for your little foodie.

Depot Book Store and Cafe
All aboard to get your board books! How fun is it that this popular bookstore is located in an old train depot? This adorable downtown Mill Valley shop is small yet offers an amazing kids’ selection. You’ll enjoy the impressive array of both international and local magazines, and a cafe to boot!

87 Throckmorton Ave.
Mill Valley, Ca
415-383-2665
Hours: 7 a.m.– 7 p.m. every day
Online: depotbookstore.com
What’s your favorite Bay Area indie bookstore? Let us know in the comments below!

—Bronwyn O’Malley, Amber Guetebier & Gabrielle Cullen