Featured Readers

Each month we sit down for a chat with a ‘Featured Reader’, to find out about their favourite books of all time, their literary preferences, recommendations, revered authors, & the likes...

This Month

Caroline hor

Caroline Sullivan

Tales for Tadpoles, Dublin 2

Books can teach you all sorts of things but one that highlights how loved a child is I think is very important.

Caroline Sullivan, Tales for Tadpoles

What is your earliest memory of reading?

I remember basically teaching myself to read using my older brothers' school books, before I started school myself. So I have very happy memories of Peter and Jane and Anne and Barry! We didn’t have a lot of picture books at home when I was very small so it was only when I was old enough to go to the library and pick my own books that I really got into books and reading. And then I read so, so much. Books were, and obviously still are, a huge part of my life. I genuinely can’t imagine my childhood without books. They were a huge part of not just my day-to-day life but also my development and understanding of the world. I feel like I am appreciating the impact they had on me more and more as I get older and can reflect on my childhood with perspective.

What is your favourite book from Childhood?

I can’t possibly just pick one! I still have my copy of What Do People Do All Day? by Richard Scarry which I absolutely loved for years … and my nearly 2 year old son loves it now too. As I got older I read everything by Enid Blyton that I could get my hands on. Malory Towers, the Five Find-Outers, The Adventurous Four (I wasn’t so keen on The Famous Five and The Secret Seven funnily enough, even though they seem to be the most popular), Mr Galliano’s Circus … so many of them. I counted at one stage that I had read about 200 of her books. As I got older I loved classics like Anne of Green Gables, Heidi and What Katy Did, as well as a lot of Irish books out at the time like the Famine Trilogy by Marita Conlon-McKenna and the Amelia books by Siobhan Parkinson.

Tell us about your life as a bookseller - did you always want to have your own bookshop?

I did, but for some reason it took me a few years to get on the right path. After 5 years in college I went to work in an office, because that’s what everyone I knew was doing. Plus it was Celtic Tiger years so it was relatively easy to get a high paying job. I worked as a fund accountant and then in recruitment, but it was only when I came home to the dole after travelling the world for a year when I was 27 that I took the plunge and got a job in a bookshop. I worked in Hodges Figgis on Dawson Street for three and a half years before leaving to set up on my own. It was there that I learnt so much about the rich world of children’s picture books, and also learnt so much from my colleagues about good customer service.

Tell us about 'Tales for Tadpoles'. Where did the name come from?

I can’t take credit for the name unfortunately! When I was in the early stages of setting up the business I was trying for a good while to come up with a good name, but I just couldn’t. Every name I came up with was unoriginal or just unsuitable (for example I was stuck on The White Rabbit for a while, until somebody told me that’s a slang term for cocaine!). I finally gave in and asked my very creative partner Micheál for help … he came up with Tales for Tadpoles within a day, saying he was only getting started, it was only his first idea… but instantly I knew that was the name. He combined my love of frogs (I’ve been obsessed with them since childhood!) with the theme of the shop and it works perfectly. It is also a name that sticks in people’s minds, because most people remember “Tadpoles” if nothing else.

When I left Hodges Figgis I spent a couple of months working on a business plan and researching what opening my own shop would involve. I did a Start Your Own Business course as well as a Digital Markeing Diploma and also met with an estate agent to discuss costs involved with rent and what kind of contract I was likely to get. This is what scared me most of all! The cost and the risk involved. So because I had a very clear idea of the kind of products I wanted to sell, and the kind of shop I wanted (ie not a traditional book shop but one focused on illustration, and specifically beautiful books and related products) I decided to test the market by taking things in small steps before taking big risk by opening a shop. I ordered a select few books and products and started selling in markets for a year or so, then I opened a 2 week pop-up shop in Dun Laoghaire, then a six month one on Nassau Street and then finally I opened our shop on Drury Street in July 2016. Selling at the markets was a really important step for me, I learnt a lot about what customers want and I met a lot of like-minded people setting up or already running their own small businesses. Plus I still have a lot of customers who have followed Tales for Tadpoles from the start which is lovely.

What book would you give to a child / one every child should have in their life?

That’s a hard one. It might be a cliché but I always say every child should have Guess How Much I Love You. Books can teach you all sorts of things but one that highlights how loved a child is I think is very important. Beyond that I’m not sure I would pick just one book that every child should have, as children are so different and are drawn to different things. In the shop when we’re asked for recommendations we try to find out a little bit about the child before recommending, or at least give a good few options and explain in detail what is good about each book, so that the purchaser can make up their own mind as to what the particular child mind like.

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The Books

We have been finding out about the books that matter to you, to grow this virtual bookshelf that represents the lives, families and culture of the people that call Dublin home. Here are a selection of some of the books that you have been telling us …

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