Red Balloon BookshopJust before the summer break, a friend and I talked about what we could do to encourage people to support local (and not-so-local) independent bookstores. One thought we had was monthly blog posts that would highlight some of the fantastic indie bookstores there are. So the last Friday of every month, I’ll be posting about an indie bookstore somewhere in the world.

For many of us, such wonderful bookstores are a thing of the past (although we may still have brick-and-mortar big-box stores around), but I assure you that there are still such places to be found.

One of the joys of the internet age is that many independent bookstores have online ordering capabilities, so if you want the ease and convenience of ordering online, or don’t have a bookstore nearby, you can choose to order from an indie rather than from a big conglomerate. You likely won’t get the steep discount you might elsewhere online, but you’re supporting an important facet of our society in ordering from a small bookstore.

That’s all by way of explanation of this new blog feature. Now for today’s bookstore!

The Red Balloon in Saint Paul, Minnesota is not just an independent bookstore, it is a store devoted to children’s books. Everything from board books to YA can be found inside this cozy house-of-reading. (I notice that there are a few adult books, both fiction and non-fiction, on their website, however.)

You are greeted as you approach the store by a delightful carving of the Three Bears — with a red balloon (of course). Look up at the curved window on the second floor — there’s another red balloon, and the silhouette of a child reading, etched into the glass.

I visited on a grey, cool November day, but inside I found a warm, inviting atmosphere; a great selection of books; friendly staff; a place to sit and read a bit — they have regular storytimes, book signings and other events on the raised platform near the back. (Note — these photos were taken on an earlier visit, one October Sunday morning when the store wasn’t open.)

Although it’s a small space, it is filled with books, books, and more books, but it doesn’t feel cramped at all. I saw books by people whose names I knew, as well as those who were new to me — and I had to restrain myself from bringing home far more books than my suitcase would carry.

Although I don’t know when my next trip to the Twin Cities will be — I hope it will include a visit to the Red Balloon! My Bookstore Map page will show you how to get there.

If you get to visit there at any time, tell the bears hello for me! And wherever you are — please consider supporting independent bookstores whenever possible.

Bears at Red Balloon

Is there an independent bookstore near where you live? Let me know in the comments — perhaps I’ll feature it in a future post!

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