I grew up in a family where Mom read The Chronicles of Narnia out loud while Dad drove as we traversed the state of Texas on summer vacation. My sister and I fell into magical lands with mythical creatures as small Texas towns whizzed by outside our windows. These hours spent reading in the car provided needed entertainment as well as some family bonding on those long road trips.
If you’re planning to hit the road with the family this fall, set aside some time to visit the many independent bookstores in Texas—from Front Street Books in Alpine to Main Street Bookshop in Rockdale—that offer kid-friendly sections. You might just find yourself whisked away to a magical land on your next drive across the state.
Fabled Bookshop & Cafe
215 S. Fourth St.
Located in downtown Waco (look for the iconic “Wacotown” mural on the side of the building), Fabled celebrates its fourth anniversary this month as Waco’s first independent bookstore. A 6-foot-tall owl greets visitors as they enter an industrial-style interior with inviting seating, tall bookcases, and comforting aromas from the café that serves literary-inspired drinks such as the Harry Potter-themed Muggle Mocha and a nonalcoholic version of Marilla Cuthbert’s Raspberry Cordial in Anne of Green Gables. Kids and adults will be enchanted by the children’s room, which can be entered Narnia-style: through the door of a wardrobe. Plan a visit to coincide with scheduled speaking engagements with authors like Jayme Blaschke (Inside the Texas Chicken Ranch: The Definitive Account of The Best Little Whorehouse) and Lawrence Wright (Mr. Texas, coming out in September).
Front Street Books
121 E. Holland Ave.
If you find yourself in the Big Bend area, head to Front Street Books, located among the many storefronts you can find walking along Alpine’s Holland Avenue. The shop welcomes youngsters to its children’s shop “around the corner,” as the sign painted on the wall says. There are story times and a wide selection of family-friendly books. The rest of the shop specializes in regional books as well as local authors and invites the community and visitors to attend events like book discussions and signings. Recently, the store hosted JJ Rusz speaking on his Big Bend Country Mystery series. To see what’s coming up, the bookstore has a monthly newsletter that includes the staff’s reading picks and a list of upcoming events.
The Book Nook
108 S. Douglas St.
Get lost in this unassuming shop, just a block off Brenham’s historic courthouse square. Browse several rooms full of new and used books and merchandise such as puzzles, socks, and stickers. A well-organized and well-lit children’s room is central to the store and offers titles from Scholastic, Little Golden Books, and Dr. Seuss, plus a dedicated section showcasing books about Texas. From durable board books for toddlers to pop-up books for younger kids to chapter books for middle grades, this inviting area beckons children to dive right into reading. Adjacent to the children’s room is a teen section, with curated reads appropriate for the age group.
Lark & Owl Booksellers
205 Sixth St., Suite 101
Lark & Owl heralds itself as “a bookish setting for kindred characters.” The bookshop lives out its desire to offer a diverse and inclusive atmosphere through an eclectic selection that includes books on social and racial justice. The shop even provides a community telephone for those in need. Kids have a dedicated space at “Storybook Landing,” where story time is held. This summer, Lark & Owl debuted Alouette Bistro, which offers guests coffee, tea, Italian sodas, and literary-themed cocktails, along with freshly made soups, salads, and bakery items. The shop hosts interactive, family-friendly events, which can be found here. The store also sells items from small, local, or women-owned vendors, falling in line with the shop’s commitment to inclusion. Be sure to stop by the town’s famous Monument Cafe.
Whimsy and Wild Emporium
214 N. Main St.
Opened last summer, this bookshop is an “interactive children’s bookstore” on a mission “to give every child that enters [the bookstore’s] doors the magic of what reading can do in their lives.” Owner Lindsey Terry prioritizes learning but also encourages fun by hosting birthday parties and decorating the shop with whimsical flourishes, such as a wardrobe entry to “Narnia” (aka the story room) and a larger-than-life red velveteen throne that’s used for author visits and children’s story times, held on Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. Along with merchandise including journals, jewelry, wallets, bags, and hats from vendors such as the Texas Cork Company, Claytique, and Abigail makes Art, the shop sells soft and washable Little Adventures dress-up clothes, which children can dress up in while playing in the store. There’s also an in-store scavenger hunt to entertain younger guests as adults browse the bookcases.
Main Street Bookshop
202 W. Cameron Ave.
Wanting to share their love of books with the community, husband-and-wife owners Richard and Meggins Scheel opened Main Street Bookshop, the first independent bookshop in Milam County, this year. “Richard and I are true bookhounds and have been reading widely and eclectically all of our lives,” Meggins says. “It’s our joy to offer new and used books and coffee to everyone who travels Highway 79 through Rockdale.” The shop sells new and used books as well as books for children including sticker books, activity books, and board books. Coffee and gift items are available, with a great selection of stickers, bookmarks, kids’ activity kits, puzzles, brightly colored pens, and reading accessories such as book pouches and highlighters. A new addition is coming, the “Bookshop Backyard,” which includes “plans for a deck under the trees with tables to sit and drink your coffee and read your new book, as well as giant chess and giant scrabble for family-friendly fun,” Meggins says.
Burrowing Owl Books
7406 SW 34th Ave., Suite 2B, Amarillo
400 15th St., Canyon
Located in the historic First National Bank Building, the shop takes its name from a burrowing owl that the family would see daily on their local drives. The owners, Dallas and Todd Bell, were intrigued by the animal in the community and with the word “burrow,” meaning to delve or dig into things. Inviting guests to find a book to burrow into at its two locations in the Panhandle, the charming bookseller features new and used books and other merchandise. The Amarillo location boasts a children’s room with a mural depicting West Texas accentuating one wall, while the Canyon location welcomes all ages to its youth room full of fiction and nonfiction books.