“When children read, they can go anywhere and learn anything. Reading broadens their world.”
Tattletales Books & Toys in Dartmouth, NS is an independent, family-owned children’s bookstore that has been serving the Maritimes since 1995. The beloved store specializes in books for infants, toddlers, children, and young adults, and is known for its teaching resources and community engagement. We spoke with owner Anne Whebby about the store’s history, how she decides which books to stock, and what she loves about being an indie bookseller.
Can you tell us a bit about the store? I’d love to hear about its history and how you became an indie bookseller.
I became an indie bookseller because of a teacher. When my children were in elementary school, one of them had an amazing teacher with a vast classroom library. To borrow a book, students simply wrote their name on the board and selected their book. As a volunteer in the classroom, I was impressed by how many books she had—I too was allowed to borrow whatever I’d like, so long as I wrote my name on the board!
I began to plan out what my dream bookstore would look like. How there would be little nooks and comfy chairs, toys and puzzles, and a strong tie to community service. One day, my brother, after hearing me talk about how much I loved children’s books, suggested we open a family bookstore. So, we did! We opened Tattletales in 1995—six brothers and sisters as co-owners. In 2018, my siblings retired and I bought them out because I still love kids’ books.
Why do you think access to books for young people is so important?
When children read, they can go anywhere and learn anything. Reading broadens their world.
How do you decide which books and toys to stock?
I make every effort to know my audience—it is the most important factor when I’m deciding what books to stock. I take recommendations from book representatives into account, as well as teacher reviews and the diverse interests of our community. I also ensure that all our toys are high quality, durable, educational, and fun!
Can you tell us about Dartmouth and the role your store plays in the community?
I grew up in Dartmouth and have seen it grow from a small town to a sprawling bedroom community of Halifax. Our downtown is vibrant—it was recently referred to as “Little Brooklyn”—and our schools are awesome. We have a diverse, growing population.
In our original mission statement, back in 1995, we vowed to give back to the community in which we live. It was, in our minds, a basic requirement of doing business. Thus, our Partners in Education Program came to be. Through this program, a percentage of our sales were donated to the schools in our community. From 1995-2007, more than $80,000 worth of books were placed in our community schools.
Wanting to do more, we came up with the idea for a “penny” promotion, through which we felt the schools could realize a much larger benefit. That is how The Penny Campaign was born. On February 1, 2007, Tattletales placed one penny in a pot. The goal was to double the number of pennies in the pot each day for the 28 days of February. It was a great success. We surpassed our goal and decided to continue the campaign in the years that followed. Since 2007, we’ve put more than $1.5 million worth of books into schools in the Halifax Regional Centre for Education!
What is something readers would be surprised to learn about your store?
When customers come into our store, they always comment on how cozy it is, and they are pleasantly surprised by the variety of toys, puzzles, games, and books that we have in stock. And, of course, if they are searching for something we do not have, we will find it!
What are some recent titles that you and/or your customers have loved?
Picking a favourite book is like picking a favourite child! It can’t be done. Our customers love visiting our website to see what our teacher readers recommend and make their selections from there.
That said, some of our favourite Canadian titles include Ghostlight by Kenneth Oppel, The Undercover Book List by Colleen Nelson, Thanks A Lot, Universe by local author Chad Lewis, My Fade is Fresh by local author Shauntay Grant, Meet Me in Mumbai by Sabina Khan, and With Our Orange Hearts by Phyllis Webstad.
What do you love most about being an independent bookseller?
I love matching books to readers, doing book talks in the store, at conferences and in schools, and supporting educators. When I can create specialized lists for teachers for classroom libraries that match the needs of the students in their classroom, then I’m doing my job. Just like my daughter’s elementary school teacher, I’m providing the best books at the right time for kids. What job could be better than that?