Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Mardi après-midi à la librairie

We recently welcomed local author Gwen Brookes into the shop for our first non-English event (if that doesn't sound too grand) - an afternoon of French songs, stories and games to coincide with the publication of Gwen's Berthe the Witch books.

Language teaching is undergoing something of a revolution at the moment. The biggest change is the gradual introduction of language teaching aimed at 7-11 over the next few years. I can't profess to be expert on this, but it sounds a fantastic idea. Language teaching when I was a kid seemed to consist of endless rote-learning of verbs, accompanied by the reading of dull 60s-era textbooks about "Cos Le Facteur" (from memory) which has left me with huge mental block every time I've ever tried to speak French since.

Our event couldn't have been more different. Gwen is a local French teacher, and put together a series of songs, stories and games for the children who came along. What was impressive to watch was the kids learning and remembering the new words, and obviously enjoying the experience to boot.

And here's the proof:

Her books came about after Gwen - a French teacher of almost 30 years - became frustrated by the lack of simple story books for kids learning French, and wrote and self-published La Semaine de Berthe. Her visit to the shop coincided with the publication of the next two books in the series: Bonjour Berthe and Les Amis de Berthe.

The Times Educational Supplement said this about the first book: "The language is repetitive without being boring and a good basic vocabulary is introduced using common sentence structures children will be familiar with...there is a wealth of work to be obtained from this book. I look forward to seeing more in this series."

Each book retails for £3.99 - and if your interest is piqued and you can't pop into the shop in the foreseeable future, £14.00 buys you all three and shipping to anywhere in the UK...

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Hello, hello, it's good to be back

Ah, a few days by the seaside, which just happened to coincide with the only hot weather of the Summer. Maybe it's because I grew up by the seaside, but there is really nothing that can beat the simple, uncomplicated pleasure of a day at the beach (providing it's not raining of course - then the experience is rather different). Sandcastles, crabbing, ice-creams, penny slots - one happy little boy last week, I can tell you. And Alex was pretty excited too...
Of course, next year we'll choose a better date to close the shop than the week in which the Booker Longlist is announced (doh!) but at least we have the literary delight which is the dovegreyreader bookerthon to look forward to. The literary equivalent of an advent calendar stuffed with chocolate, this annual event already has the makings of a literary institution as far as Nicki and I are concerned, and deserves to become as well-known as the Booker itself.

Anyway, the shop survived its week off, and we're back today with our storyteller Peter Hearn, who is - as I type - telling stories of a bear going to a birthday party, the tale of Orpheus and Eurydice (accompanied by a real lyre) and much banjo-playing. Fantastic. This is lifting my spirits even more post-holiday.

Next Tuesday we're having our first language event, an afternoon of French songs, stories and games with local author Gwen Brookes, creator of Berthe The Witch. We predict big things for Berthe, with French soon to be on the primary school curriculum, and Berthe La Sorcière is a great creation.

Friday, August 03, 2007

A Week Off

On Monday, August 6th, we'll be closing the shop for a week and having a break. After the madness of July (and it was a bit overwhelming at times) Nicki and I have been looking forward to having some time off. This week coincides with holidays for some of our staff as well, so it works out well all round. I must admit to being a bit nervous about actually closing the shop. We've told everyone about it, sent out the newsletter, we've got big posters around the shop - but sometimes, in the wee small hours (the time at which most small business owners are visited by the entrepreneurial heeby-jeebies) I do wonder if a few people will visit and be very disappointed that we're not open, or will have travelled from some distance as part of a long-planned trip to visit us ("I don't believe it, and I made a special trip here from Wyoming just to see Mostly Books", etc.). I don't know whether this is extremely neurotic of me, egotistical, or simply I overrate how people view our shop, but I'm still slightly unnerved. I'll just have to relax about it all on the trip to the seaside we've got planned with the boys next week. Frankly, I'm looking forward to getting some sleep...