“One thing that might surprise readers is the double meaning behind our store name. ‘Kinder’ stands for the German word for children, but it also represents being friendly, sympathetic, and warm-hearted. It encapsulates the atmosphere we strive to create in our store.”
Kinder Books is an award-winning children’s bookstore in New Westminster, BC. Known for its thoughtful selection of books and toys, this beloved shop has been in operation for more than 10 years. We spoke with founder and owner, Anne Uebbing, about how Kinder Books came to be, the values behind her work, and what she loves most about independent bookselling.
Can you tell us a bit about the store? I’d love to hear about the history of the store and how you became an indie bookseller.
The story of our store began in 2011, 13 years after I immigrated from Germany. Growing up in Germany, bookstores were an integral part of our culture. Even in our small town of 6,000 people, we had three unique bookstores. Each one had its own charm and offered a different selection of books. Those bookstores were my haven. I would spend my allowance at them and immerse myself in the world of stories. They were places of knowledge and connection.
When I moved to North America, I encountered the big bookstore chains like Barnes & Noble and Borders (back when they were still around). While they offered books, there was something missing for me. I believe a bookstore should offer more than just a collection of titles. It should provide a curated selection, relevant books that reflect the world we live in, and a space where the community can gather and exchange thoughts.
When I couldn't find the kind of bookstore I longed for, I decided to create it myself. It all started with Barefoot Books, a publisher that offered an Ambassador program, allowing me to sell books without a physical store. I would pack and load boxes and set up at artisan markets, community festivals, and teacher conferences. As time went on, I expanded my collection by adding more publishers.
When the pandemic hit, in-person events came to a halt, and selling books solely online was unsatisfying. Then an opportunity arose in New Westminster, where I already had a client base. I took up the challenge of setting up a permanent store, this time without wheels. I must admit there were many sleepless nights filled with doubts about whether it would work out.
While I still do the occasional pop-up bookshop to connect with people beyond New Westminster, I'm grateful that now people can find us every day in our brick-and-mortar store. Teacher conferences continue to be a highlight for me as they offer insights into what is needed in classrooms and education.
Would you mind sharing some of the values that propel your work?
I am driven by my passion for learning and believe that education should be engaging and fun. I also believe in the power of community and networking. We actively connect with our community and provide diverse, inclusive programs, workshops, and events that offer resources and knowledge to curious minds, regardless of age.
Sharing literature is another passion of mine and I understand the responsibility that comes with our privileged position as booksellers. I believe that even a small positive impact on a child's mind can have a cumulative effect on society. Those small moments of connection and growth contribute to a brighter future when we come together and learn from one another.
I hold a deep reverence for a child's journey to literacy, recognizing that it lays the foundation for a connected and meaningful life. I firmly believe that through education, literacy, and compassion, we can build a better world.
Can you tell us about your customers and community?
As a children's bookstore, our primary customers are family members who are looking for meaningful stories that reflect their own lives and the lives of others. They seek books that reach, connect to, and expand young minds. Our customers aren't necessarily drawn to mainstream titles or spin-offs of TV shows (although we do have exceptions like The Gumboot Kids). Instead, they come to us in search of special and unique books.
We also have a significant number of teachers and librarians who visit our store to find stories that resonate with their students and readers. They appreciate the curated selection and the opportunity to discover titles that are both educational and engaging.
Our community in New Westminster strongly supports local businesses and values Canadian authors, artists, and artisans. Thanks to their support, we have been able to build a network of community organizations such as the NW Library, NW Family Place, NW Arts Council, and Gardens4Kids, among others. These partnerships help us spread the word about our store and foster a sense of collaboration within our community.
I understand you host a ton of interesting events for both young readers and adults. Can you share a bit about the events planning process?
Our events planning process is an exciting and collaborative endeavour. It started in the summer of 2022 when we began hosting weekly Storytime with Art Workshops on Sundays. One of our staff members, Nicholas Brancati, who is also an artist, was enthusiastic about organizing these events with me. We later added another local artist to our team.
Initially, there were financial challenges in making the events inclusive and barrier-free. We wanted to offer them free of charge, but we had expenses to cover, such as payments for the artists and additional insurance. To overcome this, we connected with the local arts council, which generously became a sponsor for our events. We also applied for grants, such as the Vancouver Foundation’s Neighbourhood Grant, with the support of our customers.
These events have evolved over the past few months as we opened up opportunities for local authors and publishers to participate. Many have come forward and enjoy partnering with us and our resident artists for these events. Publishers have been helpful in designing event posters and even offering co-op money to promote the events. We're grateful for the support we receive from the local media, who help spread the word about our events through regular interviews with presenting authors.
What is something readers would be surprised to learn about your bookstore?
One thing that might surprise readers is the double meaning behind our store name. "Kinder" stands for the German word for children, but it also represents being friendly, sympathetic, and warm-hearted. It encapsulates the atmosphere we strive to create in our store.
Another surprising aspect is that we hand-select every title in our store. We personally read every single book so we can recommend the perfect titles to our customers.
Lastly, readers might not know that I founded and have run this business on my own for the past 10 years. It has been an incredible journey of growth and learning!
What are some recent titles that you and/or your customers have loved?
My Baba’s Garden by Jordan Scott, illustrated by Sydney Smith
Boobies by Nancy Vo
Super Small by Tiffany Stone, illustrated by Ashley Spires
Meet Frank by Mavis Lui
Let’s Find Momo Outdoors! by Andrew Knapp
Still This Love Goes On by Buffy Sainte-Marie, illustrated by Julie Flett
What do you love most about being an independent bookseller?
What I love most about being an independent bookseller is the freedom to bring in whatever titles I want and need. This freedom allows us to be more creative and intentional with our displays. We can curate a unique collection that speaks to our customers' interests and desires.
Additionally, I cherish the personal connections and learning opportunities that come with being an indie bookseller. I enjoy hearing what our community needs and being able to make it happen. It brings me joy to provide a space and platform for authors and artists to showcase their work. Ultimately, being an independent bookseller allows me to create a place where people can meet, connect, and share their love for literature.