What is independence?

While our website was being rebuilt, Bookwagon sought tuition from a marketing consultant. At one point we argued that his comparison of Bookwagon to Amazon was irrelevant. Bookwagon is an independent children’s bookshop. He asked, ‘What does independent mean? What is independence?’

Independence Bookwagon dictionaryChambers dictionary defines ‘independent‘ as- ‘not under the control or authority of others/ not relying on others for financial support, care, help or guidance; thinking and acting for oneself and not under an obligation to others‘.

Independence is intrinsic to every individual. The reader’s horror of George Orwell’s ‘1984‘ is Winston’s loss of independence. The fear of North Korea, or any totalitarian regime is an absence of independence. Sightings of ‘Love Island‘ have filled me with revulsion, because of the obligatory similarity of the contestants and their manipulated dependence. Where is independence?


England team independence BookwagonEngland is revelling in its revived national football team, not only because of its success in the 2018 FIFA World Cup, but because of the teamwork shown. Despite individual stars, none is mightier than the team. This team shows an independence of focused determination for which English supporters have longed. Its waist-coated manager, Gareth Southgate reminds each team member ‘You are writing your own story. You are creating your own history.’

Independent bookselling

Bookwagon loves being part of the community of independent children’s booksellers. It is a group with the same focus, i.e., to ensure children, families and schools might know about and access their own great children’s books.

Bookwagon book fair at Facebook HQ

            Bookwagon popup book fair at Facebook HQ

There is little profit to be made from being an independent children’s bookseller. The work is almost vocational, an act of dedication and love.

Bookwagon independence

Bookwagon is determined to root out ‘forever’ books; you may see that term offered in my descriptors. Descriptors are the mini-blurbs we write for every book we recommend. We could buy in the product descriptions – as many on-line bookshops do – but stand by our mission statement ‘to sell books we have read and loved only.’ How could we regurgitate another’s words when they do not reflect our experience? We are writing our own, independent story.

By shunning collective descriptions of titles, and selecting books we’ve read and loved only, Bookwagon’s  recommendations are authentic. We are not saying our selections ‘are the only fruit’. However, readers who look over our bookshop titles, or contact us personally for recommendations, trust our experience.


The reader’s need for independence

Choosing books from an independent children’s bookshop means wider choice. Independent booksellers like Bookwagon select books that meet readers’ individual needs of readers. Independent booksellers want readers to enjoy the best reading experience from their books.

The writer connection

Bookwagon feels privileged in its unique connection with writers. We work alongside writers, love and sell their books, learn their stories, (‘What is your inspiration?‘). To quote Costa winner Jason Wallace, with whom we have recently worked,  ‘When I write I seek a new perspective. I have an independence of thought I have to follow.’

Jason Wallace with Year 8 students

      Jason Wallace, Year 8 students, ‘Encounters

What can we do?

Working alongside a group of writers recently, one opined, ‘There are too many books.‘  Rather like the spew of cheap clothing that clutters our high streets, we are up to our chops in discard, mass-produced, reproduced titles and series. Publishers churn out similar material, or versions of long familiar material. Such a glut of books means it is too easy for ‘quality’ books that fulfil a reader to be lost and overlooked. 

In ‘The Pool’, writer Daisy Buchanan considered the demise of Britain’s department stores-  ‘We can’t keep shopping like this, seeking bargains we get bored of, supporting companies that don’t pay tax and buying five £10 dresses that get thrown away for every £50 dress we keep. In 2018, consumers can instantly get whatever they want, but we’ll eventually get what we deserve, too.’

It is the same situation for books. Charity shops request patrons do not donate books, or overly familiar works, or titles by mass produced writers. We need to choose the books we buy carefully, seeking ‘forever’ copies. That way we enable readers to have a rich, broad, quality, meaningful reading experience. We support our writing community honourably and informatively.

Independence in writing

We tread in the steps of the stories we read. A suggestion of recently added Bookwagon titles, offer rich participation pickings.

Some picture books:-

How To Be A Lion         The Flight of Mr Finch      The Secret Sky Garden

Ed Vere’s  latest title  How To Be a Lion  share’s Leonard’s life. Gentle, poetry writing, duck befriending Leonard, doesnt quite demonstrate what it takes. How can Leonard strike a blow for independence and avoid ‘chomping’?

When Mr Finch buys a vine to cheer Pip, his life is upended to wild experiences and worlds never imagined. The Flight of Mr Finch is a wonderful, Rousseau- like, sophisticated picture book we recommend for readers of all ages!

Funi takes the initiative on an abandoned carpark roof in building  The Secret Sky Garden. This is a luscious cry for independence and beauty in an urban world.

Some books for newer readers:-

Bad Nana Older Not Wiser            Rose's Dress of Dreams          Sam Wu is NOT Afraid of Sharks cover image            Embassy of the Dead          The Secret of the Night Train

Jeanie is admiring and horrified by Bad Nana Older Not Wiser. She’s embarrassing, tactless and unafraid. This is  Sophy Henn’s first early reader chapter book, after success with her wonderful picture books. It left me laughing out loud and longing for a Bad Nana all of my own!

Katherine Woodfine is best known for the superb Taylor & Rose detective series, opening with The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow. Now she turns her hand to the story of Rose Bertin, coutourière to the French Court of Marie Antoinette in Rose’s Dress of Dreams. This is a story of hope over adversity, independence over tradition.

Although Sam Wu denies he’s frightened, his actions tell another story. Both Mr AND Mrs Bookwagon have delighted in Sam Wu is NOT afraid of GHOSTS and Sam Wu is NOT afraid of SHARKS.

I don’t think Sam Wu would cope if he met Stiffkey, the undertaker, on a foggy alleyway. Jake’s polite ‘Good morning’ sets off a chain of creepy events that had me absolutely gripped! Embassy of the Dead is splendidly researched, pacy writing that deserves a wide readership.

Readers with rather more experience will enjoy Max’s break for respect and independence. She accepts an invitation by a ‘tricky’ great aunt to travel to Turkey from Paris accompanied by the curious Sister Marguerite. Sylvia Bishop has created an engrossing detective read in The Secret of the Night Train 

For confident readers to older readers:-

A Most Magical Girl              The Grand Genius Summer of Henry Hoobler           Secrets of a Sun King      Jelly         The Weight of a Thousand Feathers cover image

Bookwagon has a determination is to offer great international titles. Two books that delighted recently, include A Most Magical Girl by Karen Foxlee, writer of our popular Christmas title, Ophelia and the Marvellous Boy.

Meanwhile, the heatwave proved a great backdrop to enjoy the gorgeous, The Grand, Genius Summer of Henry Hoobler. I could smell the beach! Henry finds a friend, and his voice on a family summer holiday to Yeelonga, learning to respect his independence and others’ too.

We welcome Emma Carroll’s latest, Secrets of a Sun King  It’s post war London, the news is full of Howard Carter, while Lilian’s grandfather is seriously unwell. Visiting his flat one evening, Lilian discovers a parcel containing ancient artefacts… How could this relate to events in Luxor?

Older readers are recommended Jelly, the latest title by the wonderful Jo Cotterill. This is about learning to value yourself for who you are, honestly, at any age. I love its determination, the strength of its story and its endearing, flawed, yet realistically created, lead character.

The Weight of a Thousand Feathers is a witty, unflinching story of a young carer, struggling to hold it together for his mother and younger brother. Mr Bookwagon claims it is one of the best books he has read.

Further Bookwagon independence  

After much consideration, we have declined to participate in the 2018 Christmas books’ catalogue. Participation would have meant agreeing to stock every title offered. Many are the sort of disposable  titles that do not meet our criteria of books that fill your heart and mind, thoughts and feelings. To that end, there’ll be a Bookwagon Christmas catalogue, full of books we have read and loved and recommend. First, there’s a list of summer reading suggestions to construct!

Happy reading.




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