Beijing Book Nooks

Monday, 20 October 2008

As winter tiptoes in, Tania McCartney scouts Beijing for the quirkiest spots to snuggle with a warm book

English-language kids books have been notoriously hit and miss in China, but Beijing has catalogued some interesting surprises. Forget the obvious haunts – thaw your toes at this spate of funky reading nooks that have slipped off the shelves and into the capital

Lunchtime tomes
Fancy chicken nuggets with your Maurice Sendak tales? These tasty book nooks will keep rumbling bellies content while the eyes happily feast––on a book.

Sculpting in Time will quickly fill little tums with its range of warm pastas and desserts, whilst stuffing sniffly noses into the depths of a book (3A, 2 Jiangtai Lu, near Lido Hotel, Chaoyang district 5135 8108).

Garden Books is a sunny spot with an extensive range of kids titles, especially paperback chapter books for older kids.

Lounge about in the kids zone for a lazy read, then nip downstairs for a scrummy sambo or macaroni cheese at Sequoia Café (44 Guanghua Lu, Chaoyang district 6585 1435).

If syrupy pancakes are your kind of thing, head to Le Petit Gourmand’s cosy digs to browse a library of over 9,000 books while mum and dad surf the wifi net. Make sure you curl up like a cat and purr near the fireplace (3rd Floor, Tongli, 43 Sanlitun Bei Lu, Chaoyang district 6417 6095).

Bi-lingual books
For those clever bilingual tots, the place to hang is Poplar Kids Republic Bookstore, with its massive range of English and Chinese books, stacked onto very funky shelves that lope across the room. Kiddie features include snug floor rugs, psychedelic rainbows that disappear into the ceiling, porthole windows and carpeted tubes to loll in. Live performances and book readings with games and crafts make this a cool winter hotspot (Bldg 13, Jianwai SOHO, 39 Dongsanhuan Zhonglu, Chaoyang district 5869 3032).

Peekabook House is China’s first and only non-governmental children’s library. Founded in 2005 by a group of book-loving mothers, the library manages over 10,000 kids books, yet still finds time to host a fabulous shindig or two at special times of the year (a little something called Easter, Halloween or Christmas). They also organise book donations and reading activities (HuaTeng Club, 54 Dongsanhuan Nan Lu, Chaoyang district 87738382)

Shopping spree
Next time Dad dashes out to pick up the milk, tag along for a spot of book shopping amongst the watermelon and waffles.

Jenny Lou’s stocks a surprisingly decent, ever-shifting range at most of its stores around town, and the Friendship Store Jianguomen also packs a solid punch in the adolescent paperback and picture book department (17 Jianguomenwai Dajie, Chaoyang district 6500 3311).

When a bookstore is not a bookstore
If you like your book-hunting a little on the wild side, stalk a book at Panjiayuan dirt market (west of Panjiayuan Bridge, Chaoyang district 5120 4671) for a mixed goodie bag of English language titles from Tin Tin to Chinese fairytale classics.

If your kids are commitment-phobes, try the BookMark (1 Kaifa Jie, Xibaixinzhuang, Houshayu, Shunyi district 8049 9175) whose extensive kids library provides a satisfying obligation-free reading relationship, and they also have a selection of second-hand finds for sale.

Ivy Kids Bookclub is a bonanza for kids under six, especially those in need of a little guided reading (Bldg E, Ocean Express, 2 Dongsanhuan Bei Lu, Chaoyang district 8446 7286). At a pinch, your local Embassy could be a goldmine for dusty tomes; many Embassies have libraries of books available to expats, in varying languages.

But if winter is really closing in on you and the kids can’t bear to leave the house, there’s always And yes, they deliver!

First published, in part, in Time Out Beijing magazine.
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