Elliott Bay Book Company. Credit: JiaYing Grygiel
Move over, Kindle — the last thing kids need is more screen time. Turning the pages of a printed book will always be in style, and you’ll never need to plug in.
Independent Bookstore Day is right around the corner (Saturday, April 29, 2023), but if you want to raise bookworms, don’t limit book-browsing to just one day of the year. Paying full price to support the little guys is something you can feel good about any day and it’s near impossible for anyone to have too many books, especially kids. Plus, we’ll need the next generation to defend our title as the most well-read city in the country.
Dawdle. Browse. Linger. Here’s where to go:
Find it: 1521 10th Ave., Seattle (Capitol Hill)
Just as Portland has Powell’s, Seattle has Elliott Bay Book Company. This granddaddy of Seattle bookstores moved to its Capitol Hill home in 2010, turning a former auto warehouse into a sanctuary for book lovers. My kids dove straight for the Elephant and Piggie trove while I browsed the parenting section. No one leaves Elliott Bay without some new reads. Pair your literary outing with a sweet treat — a Salt & Straw ice cream shop is just a couple blocks away.
The Eastside lost three bookstores in the past few years, and you’d think that trajectory would scare anyone off from the printed-word business. Not Dan Ullom. The former fourth- and fifth-grade teacher opened Brick & Mortar Books in 2016, which he owns with his wife and his parents. The store is located in Redmond Town Center.
“There were a lot of people that were sad that bookstores were going away. ‘We’re so glad you’re here’ — I’ve probably gotten that three or four times today and it’s a slow day,” Ullom says.
Look for an excellent selection of science fiction and middle readers in the children’s section. Brick & Mortar’s in-house kid lit experts include Ullom’s mom, a former Lake Washington school librarian, and his two bookworm kids.
Find it: 1811 Queen Anne Ave. N., Seattle (Queen Anne)
Small, but mighty. Queen Anne Book Company’s petite square footage means the selection is highly curated. You’ll find only the very best new books here. “When you have a store that’s not very big, you have to make sure you find books that deserve the space on the shelf,” says children’s book buyer Tegan Tigani.
Tigani is one of the store’s secret weapons — she’s famous for launching the careers of local children’s authors. She’ll help you find that perfect birthday present, anything from baby board books to young adult literature.
Sociologist Ray Oldenberg wrote that everyone needs different places: The first place is the home, the second place is school or work, and the third place is community. A community hub based around books — that’s the idea behind Third Place Books. The bookstore is best known for its community aspect, hosting everything from live music to language groups to knitting clubs.
The local chain’s first location, in Lake Forest Park, offers a massive children’s section. My son was happy to browse pop-up books, the fragile (and expensive) kind that libraries don’t carry. Third Place added a store in Ravenna in 2002 and Seward Park in 2016. All three locations have free wifi and food on site, so once you’re there, you can settle in.
Find it: 218 St. Helen’s Ave., Tacoma
King’s Bookstore is a community-oriented store with approximately 100,000 books just waiting for you to find your next favorite.
King’s is a (mostly) used bookstore, with a lot of new books, too. The store has more than 100,000 titles, including a good children’s picture book section, a growing non-fiction section and lots of middle readers. The store has 11 book clubs, including the Feminist Utopia, Night Owl Nature, and the Queerest Book Club Ever.
6. Page 2 Books
Find it: 457 S.W. 152nd St., Burien
Page 2 Books has been around for more than 30 years, but it underwent a complete transformation in 2013 when it was purchased by customers Jenny Cole and Bill Virgin. Under their ownership, the store moved to a bigger location, a block over from Burien’s Town Square Park and nestled in along Burien’s charmingly retro main street. The new space features an inviting and well-organized children’s section right up front, stocked with new and old books, and tons of puzzles and games. For adults, look for general fiction, local history and travel, lots of mystery, science fiction, romance — a little of everything.
It’s easy to get trapped at the bargain tables near the entrance (there’s great stuff there!) but don’t miss the wonderful children’s section upstairs at the University Bookstore’s U-District location. Comfy chairs and welcoming staff make it easy to browse for kids’ books. Need a last-minute gift? The University Bookstore is a one-stop shop, carrying lots of Seattle-themed goodies and Husky gear (obviously).
8. Island Books
Find it: 3014 78th Ave. S.E., Mercer Island
Island Books serves as just the type of community hub you want your local bookstore to be. The shop features an expansive children’s section — with super-cool playhouse — and grown-ups are sure to find their next read, too. If you need a recommendation for kids or adults, just ask the helpful staff.
Families flock to Island Books on Saturdays at 9:30 a.m. for Singing and Stories with Nancy Stewart (Mercer Island’s resident kids’ singer-songwriter). Grab a tasty lunch at Homegrown next door.
Estelita’s Library is a gathering place for people to share space, knowledge and a love of reading. It is open to everyone, and the books in the library are free to borrow. This unique model is a community library and online bookstore with books focused on social justice, ethnic studies and liberation movements. Everyone is invited to utilize the library space as a community center, cozy up with a book, learn about social justice and connect with community.
Estelita’s Library hosts community book talks, classes, meetings, history lessons and more. If you find a book you want to permanently own, check out the online bookstore. The space is open Wednesday–Saturday, 1–6 p.m.
10. Phinney Books
Find it: 7405 Greenwood Ave. N, Seattle
Phinney Books opened its doors in 2014, taking over Santoro’s Books which had served as the neighborhood bookstore for nearly a decade. Head to the back of the store and you’ll find the children section with plenty of board books within easy reach of small hands. This shop also has a good selection of middle-grade and young-adult books, and nice comfy chairs where you can sit and flip through your new favorite book.
Would you rather have your books sent directly to your house? Check out Phinney by Post Kids. Pro tip: A subscription makes a great gift!
Don’t see the book you’re looking for? No problem! Just let the staff know and they’ll order it for you, and let you know when it arrives and is ready to be picked up.
Find it: 2214 N.W. Market Street, Seattle
In 2022, Secret Garden Bookshop celebrated 45 years of being an independent bookstore! Located in the heart of Ballard, this store is known for its friendly atmosphere and books for everyone, with a specialty in children’s books. The shop offers free gift-wrapping, discounts for book clubs and educators, shipping services and easy special orders.
Secret Garden hosts a variety of events and programs including author events and school bookfairs (with an incredible selection! Sign up for the newsletter for up-to-date information.
Editor’s note: Kari Hanson contributed this article, which was originally published in 2017 and updated for 2023.