217 W 84th Street, New York, NY
There’s a special kind of charm that children’s bookshops have, something about the mix of nostalgia for the books you loved to read when growing up and the new books waiting for the young audiences of today and tomorrow all shelved together. I like browsing kid’s bookshops because I have nieces and nephews who like to read and a mother obsessed with Nancy Drew and shopping for them is fun, and that’s not to mention my own appetite for the books of my youth. I have a list of them on my phone that I watch out for, and you can bet I had that list at the ready when I walked through the doors of Books of Wonder.
There’s a lot to like about this shop, which is the newer Upper West Side location of Books of Wonder and not the more well-known 18th Street shop. The aisles in this one are wide, making it perfect for navigating with strollers around the shop, not to mention a gaggle of children attached to your hip, although they might be running off on their own since there are loads of books for them to explore. The room just inside the front door is mostly nonfiction, with books covering geography and famous cities, astronomy and dinosaurs, biographies and books about sports, on and on, a really impressive variety. The shelves throughout the shop are full of big bright books that will satisfy the curiosity of children of any age. There are also collections of classic literature up front, as well as thick collector’s volumes for older readers.
As you move past the large front desk, where a handful of staff members were helping customers and talking about new books and upcoming events, I found incredibly long rows of fiction, broken down by reading age, and special genre sections such as kid’s books that focus on New York City or books that tell fables and fairytales, magical books, etc. There are shelves dedicated to books in popular series, and in the very back are rows of books for teen and YA readers, in both hardcover and paperback. There’s also a large glass case for more vintage titles and rare early editions of popular favorites. The shop also sells original artwork by classic illustrators and children’s painters (check their website) and you’ll find assorted gifts, toys, educational tools, and more odds and ends mixed in.
I scanned the shelves for the books I wanted but realized I’d have to wait. I’m after some pretty rare out-of-print books from my youth, and while the staff were very gracious and helpful in looking them up in their system, I chose to keep looking elsewhere, hoping for that magical moment of finding them stuffed in the back of some second-hand shop. Instead I picked up some Nancy Drew titles for my mother and something for my niece. I still need to check out the famous 18th Street location (I was there years ago but not in my “official” reviewer capacity) but if you happen to find yourself on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, this is a wonderful spot to visit.
Atmosphere — Spacious aisles, clean carpets for kids to throw themselves down to open a big picture book, and countless big bright books to sort through.
Quality — The books are all in excellent shape, even the rare and vintage titles.
Quantity — You’ll find no lack of books here, with titles covering most genres and age groups.
Diversity — There’s a wide range of topics, from throwbacks of yesteryear to progressive new styles and stories.
Affordability — The books are pretty much all new and all new prices.
Amenities — I expected to see more little chairs and play areas throughout but there are enough books and enough wide open spaces on the carpet for kids to keep themselves occupied.
Location — This one is on the Upper West Side, not terribly far from Central Park.
Customer Service — The staff were extremely helpful and kind and we talked about our favorite old kids books for a bit while they looked up my out-of-print titles.
Overall — This is a great spot to shop for others, and for the kid inside you. I need to hit their original locations, but this big bright shop should suit all your YA and children’s book needs.