30 Jul 2009

The Known World Bookshop

So I was feeling like a really bad, bad mummy last Thursday evening as I pulled rapidly into the first vacant car park I could spy in Ballarat's Main Street. Jemimah had been telling me for the past hour that she was feeling ill, and I had basically been ignoring her. She looked okay; she was behaving normally; she was chatting cheerfully. She was even intermittently reading her book. "Stop reading your book, Jemimah," I directed, "that's what's probably making you feel nauseous. It does that to some people. Oh, and tell me if I need to pull over!" Well now she had - so I was.

A few short minutes later she was standing white and shaky beside me, the remains of her lunch deposited unceremoniously in the gutter nearby. "I feel better now, Mummy," she said bravely, "we can go on now." "Let's just take a bit of a walk before we get back in the car, eh?" I replied. (Can you see that I was trying to be a good caring mummy now?) We had only walked a few steps though when I turned back into a bad mother again...I spied something very dear to my heart...

...a secondhand book shop. One I hadn't yet plundered.

The pull was so strong...

"Once he hears to his heart's content, sails on, a wiser man." says Homer in The Odyssey of the Siren's song, but like the Sirens' singing lured unwary sailors, so the shop seemed to call to me, and alas I proved myself not a wiser man.

" Can I just look for one book," I heard myself asking my now recovered seven year old daughter, adding politely, "please?"

"One," she cautioned.

I fully meant to obey my daughter, honestly, but look what I found when I walked inside!

Oh my! This was no cluttered old shop. It was beautiful! It even had a coffee shop. If only we had scratch and sniff computer screens - the fragrance of fresh brewed espresso mingled with old books was just sublime. Can you just close your eyes and imagine?

This isn't the best of it though...

"Excuse me," I addressed the smart lady behind the counter, "Do you have Amy Mack's Bushland Stories?" (Nobody has Bushland Stories at a reasonable price - I've been looking for it for years.)

And then came this amazing reply -

"It's 15 dollars. I'll just get it for you."

Gobsmacked (yes, a nice lady-like term, I'll admit, but that's how I felt), I followed the lady past the calling shelves of books through to the back of the shop - past the coffee. Past a group of ladies knitting in beautiful jeweled coloured yarns. Past a couple of women talking about walking the 1200km Heysen Trail.

Back to this - the children's room. I'll say it again - THE CHILDREN'S ROOM. May I remind you that I'm talking about a used bookshop here?

Now Bushland Stories was exciting enough, but here was a room full of Australian Children's classics - shelves of them. Overseas AO type classics too. My eyes were boggling. There were titles here that I'd only dreamed of seeing in real life. There was May Gibbs, Peg Maltby, Ivan Southall, Colin Thiele, Ida Rentoul Outhwaite and even a Vojtěch Kubašta pop-up book.

Look closely into this cabinet at the very back of the children's room - I did...

See the book with the grey cover? That's May Gibbs' Nuttybub and Nittersing sitting there. In full view. Never did I think I'd see this anywhere - except Dromkeen maybe.

It's still sitting there. You can buy it if you have a spare hundred smakeroonies. Lots of other treasures aren't.

As I walked through the door, bags bulging at my side Jemimah looked at me accusingly, "You said one book, Mummy. One." Yeah, yeah, I'd failed again. Such a bad mummy.

Oh, I suppose you might want some details, eh? One of my readers has relos in Ballarat, I know...

The Known World Bookshop
14 Sturt St, Ballarat
Victoria 3350

email: michelle@TheKnownWorldBookshop.com.au
Mobile: 0438 412 670
Phone: +61 (0)3 5332 8114

Michelle sells online too, if you really need Nuttybub. You won't get Vojtěch Kubašta's Hansel and Gretel pop-up book though. It's now mine, all mine!! So's Bushland Stories. Reviews coming soon, Ruby.


Contented sigh

Photos from the website.


  1. Wow n Wow...I am speechless! Sounds divine and looking forward to another one of your book reviews! xx

  2. Oh My! I'm in love with this book shop!! We are definitely taking a trip to Ballarat!! And fresh coffee too...and a childrens' room!!! I'm off to follow the link and check it all out....

    Thanks Jeanne!! Love it!

  3. Oh excellent! Just the post I was hoping for Jeanne.
    And believe me Jemimah will be so appreciative one of these days that her "Big bad banksia" mummy bothered to get all those lovely titles.

  4. oh your post is just grand. I really felt like I was in the shop with you.

    It made me laugh. You sound just like a child that has just found the secret sweet shop in their town.

  5. Better, Therese, better - these aren't fattening - and they don't rot your teeth!

    I do like musk sticks and bananas though...

  6. You made my heart beat faster just by dropping all those names of books I've never read.

    What a beautiful used bookstore! I love hunting up new book shops.

    Jemimah sacrificed her health for the greater good. Huzzahs to her.

  7. Hmm, mother culture at it's best or at it's worst? That was a beauty, Jeanne - and very gracious of you to give the exact location of the shop (albeit now pilfered and plundered).

    Max gets carsick when he reads as well. We give him 'Minty Ginger' Herbs for Kids before car trips as he would prefer to read and then 'toss his cookies' than not.

    So, can you tell me your top two Aussie living book picks as a place to start with our kidlets?

  8. Wow. That place is just heavenly - the bookshop of my dreams. Do you think it warrants a drive from Queensland to visit that book shop? Hmmm.

  9. Ah Amy! Ley your fingers do the walking! There's a website only a click away!

  10. ahh!!! you're making me salivate (I know weird isn't it)! anyway, thanks for the address, very generous of you to share that with all your readers! I'll have to visit there next time we are in Vic and visit you too:) Can't wait to do both!!
    Between you and my dh, I'm turning into a literary buff:)

  11. Hi Jeanne,
    What a beautiful bookstore!

    I would love to visit that one.

    I hope that Jemimah is feeling better, too.

  12. Thanks, Jillian. she is fully recovered from whatever ailed her. Don't know what was wrong - she's never been car sick before...

  13. I just gave your blog an award. Swing by to accept it. :)

  14. Oh as soon as I looked at the photo I saw little Gollywog. I sooooo want to visit this shop on our way through. I will be remembering this post. The shop looks and sounds awesome.

  15. A great read Jeanne - I felt as though I was exploring this old bookstore with you.

    It's great when you find old treasures that you've been searching for so long for.


  16. Sounds like a dream come true! Wish I could "run over" and see it!

  17. Oh, you naughty Jeanne!! You know this book shop is only 45 mins from my house. Turn right out the driveway and I can drive directly there. No turns in the road to cause me to stop and think about what I'm doing...Oh dear!
    Heehee, thanks for the tip off! :)

  18. Hee Hee Joel, always happy to help other well meaning homeschool mummas blow their budgets on well written living books!

    Makes me feel less guilty when I do...


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