A Few Places to Read Children’s Literature in Cambridge

Lily Lindon is completing her MPhil in children’s literature.

Want to get out of working only in libraries or your bedroom? Find motivation, inspiration, or just a place to read for pleasure (?!) in these easy-to-find locations.

Children’s Literature Sections in Bookshops

Heffers Bookshop

 I’m one of those incredibly annoying people who stands reading books in bookshops for significant amounts of time before deciding whether or not to actually commit to the purchase. Whether or not you are as stingy as I am, there are some children’s sections in Cambridge bookshops which are lovely to pass time in. The central Waterstones has half a floor dedicated to children’s and young adult fiction, and the displays change regularly. This includes a huge amount of literature-themed stationery and gifts, and huge comfy armchairs (if you ask the stuffed toys to budge up slightly). Heffers, just down the road from there, also has a charming room hidden away in the back, lined with children’s books and colourful pillows. The staff are very friendly, and will help you find anything they might have tucked away. The Oxfam Bookshop on Sidney Street always seems to have a large stock of popular and classic children’s books if you want to take something away with you. The Central Library (the public library within Lion’s Yard shopping centre) also has a generous children’s section, often overflowing with clubs for parents and exuberant young readers.

Bookstore Readings:

  • It’s a Book by Lane Smith
  • Mathilda by Roald Dahl
  • The Incredible Book Eating Boy by Oliver Jeffers
  • Lola at the Library by Anna McQuinn and Rosalind Beardshaw
  • Anything really, it is a bookshop…

Coffee Shops

Afternoon Tease

Coffee shops are the classic haunt of readers and writers, with good reason (cake). For Christmas, my family treated me to a seemingly endless supply of coffee vouchers, so I’ve been spending an embarrassingly large amount of time in Caffe Nero, conquering Essay 2 reading. If you’re tired of your local chain, how about trying one of the many independent or student-centred cafes in Cambridge? Sticky Beaks is lovely if you can get a seat, or nearby Afternoon Tease has very cute tableware and speciality Chocolate Guinness Cake, if you need a more drastic remedy to your work! The Cambridge-famous cafe Fitzbillies has just opened a second store by Magdalene College, if the one by Pembroke College doesn’t tickle your fancy – obviously get one of their cinnamon buns with your caffeine. Or, if it’s warm enough outside, you could get a freshly roasted take-away from one of the coffee stalls in Market Square.

Coffee Readings:

  • The Large Family: A Piece of Cake by Jill Murphy
  • The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr
  • Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
  • Horrible Histories: The Rotten Romans by Terry Deary (for finding out more about an ancient Nero!)
  • Sticky Beak by Morris Gleitzman
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

The Botanic Gardens

The Botanic Gardens 

Hidden away by the train station is a Secret Garden which would rival the verdant vistas in any children’s book. You get free entry with your University of Cambridge card, and it’s only a 5 minute walk from Homerton and the Education Library – you really have no excuse! A lovely way of getting away from the city, and experiencing the great green outdoors. Bonus points for the lovely tea room, and special homemade treats including ingredients from the gardens.

If you don’t fancy the Botanic, there are many other lush green spaces in Cambridge for the warmer months: try Jesus Green, Christ’s Pieces, or the Backs of the River Cam. As members of the University, you are free to explore any other college’s grounds too, so don’t lose out on spending an afternoon masquerading as a member elsewhere. Or there’s always the possibility of a a picturesque walk to Granchester to clear some headspace.

Botanic Readings:

  • The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  • Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce
  • The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter
  • Lily Takes a Walk by Satashi Kitamura
  • Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
  • The Lost Thing by Shaun Tan

The Fitzwilliam Museum

The Fitzwilliam Museum (not as scary as it looks)

Broaden fellow visitor’s minds by opening a beautiful picturebook next to a work of art and let them consider the aesthetic value of different mediums! The Fitzwilliam also has plenty of guides for children (and adults), so you can learn too. Even though you may not spot any of the actual paintings or painters referenced by these picturebooks (though you might be surprised!), the Fitzwilliam Museum is still a wonderful place to visit, whether to stroll through its exhibitions or to sit down and read in splendour.

Museum Readings:

  • Katie and the British Artists [or any of the Katie series] by James Mayhew
  • The Noisy Paintbox: The Colours and Sounds of Kandinsky’s Abstract Art by Barb Rosenstock
  • Henri’s Scissors by Jeanette Winter
  • The Night at the Museum by Milan Trenc

Where are your favourite places to read children’s books in Cambridge?


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