: Tamara Macfarlane - Tales On Moon Lane

Tales on Moon Lane - Spotlight On Tamara Macfarlane
© Tales on Moon Lane

Can you introduce yourself, and your bookshop, to us?

Hi, I'm Tamara and I live in South London with my two children, Lily and Xander. I own Tales on Moon Lane, which is a specialist, independent children's bookshop and I also write children's books.

Why did you want to open your own Children's Bookshop?

As a child, I spent most of my time in Blackwell's children's bookshop in Oxford. It formed the setting for some of my happiest childhood memories. I particularly loved the way that the children's books weren't there as an add-on to the adult books but were important in their own right.

The staff knew the stock intimately and were brilliant at recommending new authors. It felt as though I had found a place that loved books as much as I did.

Sadly, by the time I had my first child, there were hardly any specialist children's bookshops and I really wanted my children to have somewhere to go where books were as appealing as sweets or toys.

By this point, I had also been teaching children to read for seven years and was frustrated by the over use of not very exciting reading scheme books and phonics, rather than wonderful stories and great ideas.

Tales on Moon Lane was created in order to provide a space where books are celebrated, loved and shared through the expertise of the staff and the eagerness of our readers.

Tales on Moon Lane has eye-catching window displays, as well as a cosy interior, which allows for book exploration - is it similar to the bookshop you 'lived in' as a child?

I wanted to take the enormous visual appeal of illustrated books and try to re create that pleasure as a shop. Hopefully as you walk past the windows or come into TOML it will remind you of your favourite books and set imaginations dancing.

One of the things, which stuck with me from my childhood bookshop, was that the older children had their own space. I chose the shop in Herne Hill because it offered that possibility.

How important do you think books are/can be for children?

I think that the importance is immeasurable. I spend most of my time outside the shop talking to parents and teachers about how vital real books are in developing language, empathy and understanding. They also encourage imagination. This is essential in generating creativity and exploration - if we are to bring up scientists, innovators and entrepreneurs, we need to be teaching children to question the obvious and dream of the impossible. Books offer this possibility.

The motivation to become a reader is innate and the pleasure tangible if you are surrounded by great books. The story is the huge reward for the effort of reading.

What was your favourite book when you were little?

Oh, there are so many! I loved Maurice Sendak's Mr Rabbit and the Lovely Present, Where the Wild Things Are and In the Night Kitchen. I also adored William Steig, particularly Sylvester and the Magic Pebble. The Haunted House by Jan Pienkowski was another favourite and many hours were spent reading Fungus the Bogeyman and the Asterix books. As I got a bit older, The Worst Witch Books by Jill Murphy and then The Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett and anything by Noel Streatfeild?

An ex-teacher, children's bookshop owner - and now author - what first inspired you to write Amazing Esme?

I was longing for books for my daughter with a good strong girl character who drove the narrative and saved the day rather than the endless kissing kittens and chasing fairies. In the end, I realised that if, as the owner of a children's bookshop, I was struggling to find them, then they were probably few and far between so I decided to try and write some.

And where did you find her?

I had always played imaginary circus games as a child with my friend Nell Gifford (who owns Gifford's Circus) and so Esme was partly based on my daughter and partly on Nell. Nell was the most fearless child that I have ever met and I loved her energy and spirit. There was always an air of anything being possible around her. The circus was also an ideal setting as it allows girls to be strong and physically capable while still getting to wear great costumes.

Esme's adventures are surely what every child dreams of - is this why you are now offering the Circus adventure to schools?

The circus adventure is a great way of combining all of the exciting elements of circus skills, with dynamic writing workshops and an interactive presentation. Learning is something that we all do naturally; it is why we are so successful as a species. We as adults can chose to either make learning hard work for children or we can chose to make it fun. The circus adventure is learning for fun.

Esme is already on to her second adventure, what advice would you give to anyone - parent or child - who may want to try and write a book of his or her own?

Read, read, read and read some more and then write, write, write and write some more. Then when you have read a bit more, go back and write something that you would love to read yourself.

And - which books do your children like best at the moment?

My ten-year-old daughter is currently obsessed with The Skulduggery Pleasant series, anything by Marcus Sedgwick and Eva Ibbotson and is about to start The Midnight Charter by David Whitley, which she spotted in the book corner at school.

My six year old son adores the Mungo books by Timothy Knapman and Adam Stower, Man on the Moon by Simon Bartram, Stuck by Oliver Jeffers, The Day Louis got Eaten by John Fardell and very sweetly for me, the Esme books!

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