The Gruffalo is one of those literary characters who fascinates me, even though I'm (shamefully) yet to read the book. His big brown furriness makes me imagine he's perfect for hugs and I'm pretty certain such gruffness can't really be too scary. He's someone I'd like to meet. But maybe not in a dark forest. I'm not that brave.
So imagine my delight when I arrived outside this week's bookshop to discover a gruffalo in a bright and welcoming jungle. Even if he was in disguise in the window as I explored the area after closing time.
I was spending the night in Ripon, North Yorkshire, ahead of my Northern Bookshop Adventure and so I was making the most of the opportunity to explore a new-to-me city. Which basically translates as me seeking out the location of the bookshop and discovering a cathedral, before enjoying fish and chips for tea, while sat on a bench in the main square. It was all really rather lovely and if I have one regret about my visit to Ripon, it's that I only got to spend one evening there.
Well, one evening and one very pleasant bookshop visit the next morning.
I arrived at The Little Ripon Bookshop for opening time and still managed to be the second customer to visit. The ruff-wearing bookseller (in honour of Shakespeare Day) greeted me with a friendly smile and I knew I had nothing to fear from the gruffalo in disguise.
This was confirmed by the bookseller, who reassured me this particular gruffalo's simply a fan of fancy dress and likes to get involved with all the bookshop's window displays. With costumes varying to meet the theme of whatever book is featured, I admired the toy's determination to join in (and the bookshop's inventiveness) by transforming him into an elephant to join a fun display about the Jungle Book.
However, there's much more to this bookshop than one gruffalo (and I'm not simply referring to the second, larger one, found in conversation with a moomin in the children's department).
The Little Ripon Bookshop may be a physically small space, but it's got masses of personality – and a great selection of fiction and non-fiction, as well as random book-related treats. I particularly enjoyed chatting to the bookselling family responsible for creating such a cheery and welcoming space as they're clearly very enthusiastic about what they do, but it was also fun to simply wander and browse, which takes quite a long time once you let yourself get lost in the variety of books on offer.
There was much in the fiction section to tempt me, but eventually the charm of the window display's elephant/gruffalo won me round and (having also recently visited the author's home) I had to buy Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book, along with a page-from-a-book flower.
I somehow managed to resist also buying a gruffalo, but thanks to the guardian in the window I now find that whenever I see one of these children's characters I'm reminded of this visit and all the joy to be experienced in The Little Ripon Bookshop.
The Little Ripon Bookshop
13 Westgate, Ripon,
North Yorkshire, HG4 2AT
Tel: 01765 606689
Finally, I wouldn't normally subject a bookseller to my camera, but the homemade Tudor ruff for Shakespeare Day really couldn't go unappreciated: