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Best of Toronto

The Best Bookstores in Toronto

Posted by Erinn Beth Langille / March 24, 2014

best bookstores torontoThe best bookstores in Toronto give bibliophiles hope that, despite the wagging fingers and threats, the printed page isn't dead. Sure, in the face of big box bookstores, e-readers and online purchasing, bookstores have had to specialize or promote themselves through events and classes. But the best bookstores have always gone the extra mile to encourage pleasure in reading, the love of literature and literary culture, and the adoration of the book as an aesthetic object.

When so much makes minds narrow and dull, the bookstore remains a haven of curiosity and imagination. Volumes can open up unknown worlds of possibility, and bring light to dark times. With the knockout success of Canadian literature in recent years, the growth of the self-publishing industry, and signs of book love everywhere, it's not all doom and gloom for the book business.

I personally live by Erasmus's creed: "When I get a little money I buy books; and if any is left I buy food and clothes." But perhaps the best book-related credo comes from John Waters: "If you go home with somebody, and they don't have books, don't %#*$ them!" You've been warned, now get out there and get yourself some books!

Here are the best bookstores in Toronto.

See also:

The best used bookstores in Toronto
The best comic shops in Toronto

Type Books

Type Books

Indie darlings Type Books know and love books. This is where you go for stellar recommendations on small press, Europa editions, Neversink Library, NYRB, and New Directions. Other places may also carry these publications, but the people at Type actually read them. With the great art, design and magazine sections, plus cookbooks and kids books, events and story-time, Type proves book culture is alive and well in Toronto. The West Queen West location is the most popular, but there's also a shop in Forest Hill Village. More »

Glad Day

Glad Day

As one of the world’s oldest LGBTQ bookshops, Glad Day has fought tooth and nail to remain open, in every sense of the word. Saved from closure in 2012 by a group of citizen investors, Glad Day reinvigorated the shop by hosting important events in the new loft space, while continuing to carry the most expansive collection of queer-driven publications in the city and providing an information hub for the LGBTQ community and their friends. More »

Ben McNally Books

Ben McNally Books

A former manager of (the sadly closed) Nicholas Hoare, Ben McNally opened his eponymous shop in 2007 in the Financial District. The shop is sophisticated and focused. Beautiful hardcover first editions face out on the wooden shelves with a wall on signed copies, each section a space of beauty. McNally is a leader of literary events in Toronto. He hosted the Authors Brunch series at the King Edward hotel, is involved with IFOA and Project Bookmark Canada, and hosts numerous events in the shop after hours. More »

Swipe Books

Swipe Books

The beautiful 401 Richmond building is the perfect location for Swipe Books, the bookstore in Toronto to find exquisite design, advertising, architecture and urbanism books. They are the official bookstore of the Registered Graphic Designers of Ontario and the Advertising and Design Club of Canada, and they stock a well-curated selection of toys, games and objects, with the benefits of all the theoretical and technical books around to explain such joyful feats of design. More »

Mabel’s Fables

Mabel’s Fables

What better place to start igniting the mind of a child than Mabel’s Fables? This fairy tale children’s bookshop, with cats purring on counters, toys and bright colours, friendly and knowledgeable staff, a cozy reading room, and of course the multitude of new and old classic books (teary-eyed at just the thought of Munsch’s “I’ll love you forever”). It's a wonderful place to encourage a life-long love of reading, one of the most important gifts you can give a child. More »

Good Egg

Good Egg

You like cooking? Consider yourself a foodie? You know names like Canal House, Ottolenghi, M.F.K Fisher, Madhur Jaffery, and Joe Beef? Then chances are you’ve been to Good Egg. They have cookbooks and food and drink literature and magazines, divided by country, style and theme, plus all the officious trimmings like Le Creuset cookware, Marimekko dish towels, Mauviel mixing bowls, as well as little gifts to keep dinner guests entertained while you finesse those new recipes. More »

Book City

Book City

An independent fixture with multiple locations and consistent employer of CanLit up-and-comers, Book City’s combination of social hub, community benchmark and bookseller, makes Toronto a book city. People were dismayed by the recent closer of the Annex location after 38 years, but continue to head to the surviving spots at Yonge and St. Clair, on the Danforth and in the Beaches because of the wide collection of titles and educated staff. More »

BMV Books

BMV Books

Discount books, without having to turn to Amazon - yes please! BMV Books may not have all the newest titles, but so what? Head somewhere else on the list if you need those. At BMV there are tons of older, classic and unusual titles to keep your nose in a book and the balance of your credit card low, without resorting to the online beasts. Decent art and photography sections are worthy of note. More »

Another Story

Another Story

This little gem on Roncesvalles specializes in books with themes of social justice, equity and politics, and the selection is truly impressive. Fiction, food and kids sections play a backing role to this activism forerunner, but Another Story is still the neighbourhood bookshop, bubbling with fun, gifts, literature, and magazines. Here, grassroots begins with the word. More »

Sleuth of Baker St.

Sleuth of Baker St.

The name says it all. Since 1982 readers come here to find mysteries, crime novels, detective fiction, spy and thriller novels. Fans subscribe to their newsletter ‘The Merchant of Menace’ to find out the latest hits of the genre, or stop in and request a rare title and watch one of the employees/book detectives hunt it down with skills that rival the best sleuths around. More »

Bakka Phoenix

Bakka Phoenix

As Canada’s oldest science fiction and fantasy bookstore Bakka Phoenix carries an exhaustive selection of the speculative and wildly creative. Ignore the sweet irony of a niche bookshop like Bakka Phoenix surviving in the days of digital, and enjoy the paper ride as they continue to carve out their existence on tales of dystopian futures, necromancers, androids, post-apocalyptic visions, zombies, mysticism, technology and science. More »

Ella Minnow

Ella Minnow

Ella Minnow is a sweet children’s bookshop in the family-friendly Beaches neighbourhood. Toys, clothes and blankets round out the selection of childhood favourites, bedtime stories and educational reads for the newly born to almost adult. More »

Conspiracy Culture

Conspiracy Culture

Conspiracy Culture in Parkdale offers a dizzying array of alternative perspectives on mainstream knowledge. Find yourself speculating on JFK’s death, crystal skulls, 9/11, Area 51, the Freemasons, the Pyramids or the Bermuda Triangle? Head to the Conspiracy Culture shop. The truth is out there! More »

Eat Your Words

Eat Your Words

Head to Baby Point for new and used cook books at Eat Your Words. You can find the latest food-first titles, or take a culinary trip down memory lane with old Betty Crocker cookbooks, and they have lots of cooking related products and gifts to make your test recipe a success. More »

Discussion

41 Comments

Fedora Man / March 24, 2014 at 11:38 am
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tl:dr.
Big Man on Campus / March 24, 2014 at 11:53 am
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tl;ra
Phil / March 24, 2014 at 12:42 pm
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Where is Bakka Phoenix?
Tim replying to a comment from Phil / March 24, 2014 at 01:12 pm
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This was a coding issue. 3 stores were missing from this list when it first went live on the site today. This has now been fixed and Bakka Phoenix is indeed on the list.
Art&RareBooks / March 24, 2014 at 01:19 pm
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Acadia - 232 Queen St E

D&E Lake - 239 King Street East & two additional locations
Rosie / March 24, 2014 at 01:34 pm
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Thank you for the informative article. I love books, especially cook books, and educational books. Any chance anyone knows where I can find books on the sciences, reasonably priced? It's not for school, I'm just highly curious and enjoy learning (I'm no genious, some stuff sticks, some doesn't).

Curling up on the couch with an e-reader just doesn't cut it for me. I just can't get the warm fuzzies from that glowing white light. When I want to sleep at night (I like to read a bit before sleep), it would be just as well to have an interrogation lamp in my face. If an e-reader breaks down, say goodbye to your, bought and paid for, stories. I have no use for e-readers.

Like I said, I love books.

Too bad about that large cookbook store closing down. I didn't know it was there, until the closing made the news. Advertise people.

Off topic, I love old movies, foreign film and music too. Can't find any. SOS. Help.
meg replying to a comment from Rosie / March 24, 2014 at 02:00 pm
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Rosie, the only thing your comment says about you is that you know nothing about ereaders. There's no glow unless you want one, ereaders are not tablets, and if you're too stupid to back your books up on to your computer you deserve to lose them. (Which, btw, will only happen if there's a problem with the account where you bought the books, otherwise you can just download them again.)

You love books more than you love reading, which is fine, but please figure out what you're talking about before you want to go on about the evils of ereaders.
Bob But Not Doug / March 24, 2014 at 02:37 pm
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So...all of the bookstores in Toronto?
Shu / March 24, 2014 at 03:20 pm
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Doug Miller on Bloor east of Christie and Zoinks! On Bloor and Rusholme Rd. Are pretty great too!
Genevieve Q. / March 24, 2014 at 04:31 pm
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Forgot to mention Willow books - Bloor and St. George. Huge bookstore, though it looks small and inconsequential from the outside.

And Elliot's Bookshop at Yonge and Wellesley.
Sarah / March 24, 2014 at 04:40 pm
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One new bookshop that's still trying to get on the map is A novel Spot Bookshop in Etobicoke. We've just made the Libris Award long list for best bookseller!
pt / March 24, 2014 at 05:26 pm
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Open Air Books is the best travel bookstore in the city - it's a cramped store but it has the most amazing selection of guide books and maps:
http://www.openairbooksandmaps.com/en/
Rosie / March 24, 2014 at 07:07 pm
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Oh Meg...that wasn't the information I asked for, but obviously your the kind of person who prefers toys as opposed books. Sell e-readers for a living do you? Lots of people forget to backup, just like lots of people don't lock their cellphones, or people still drive their cars with their phones glued to their faces. It's the human condition. A person shouldn't have to open an account (give their personal information) to buy a story. There goes that argument.

Do me a favor? Don't give me anymore advice. Your experiences with e-readers (and life in general) are different than mine. Do what you want to do, and I'll do what I want to do. Okay? That's a good girl.

I do recommend people saving their money. BOYCOTT e-readers (they're not very popular anyways). Give big industy and nuclear power the ole heave ho.

Never heard such a stupid statement as "you love books more than you love reading...". How the hell do you know what I like? You don't know me. You are a flake and a half (that was meant to be accusatory), and I'm certain I would never associate with the likes of you, or anyone like you. Get over yourself.

Meg, you'd be wise to stick to "I" statements. It's part of growing up. Do you see the difference between what "I" posted and what "you" posted? "You" is accusatory, and is none of your business. "I" helps you to stick to your beliefs, and your likes, in otherwords, what's your business. I also suggest hormone replacement therapy but I'm not sure it would help you. I suggest you see your doctor, just the same. That kind of rage needs treatment.

Did anyone else get the feeling Megs a tad jealous?

So, no ones into science or learning? Never mind. I figured as much.

Making Lemon Chicken, and Roasted New Potatoes with asparagus tonight. Yummy.
Rosie / March 24, 2014 at 07:16 pm
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One more argument for books; when you're reading on the subway, bus or street, no one wants to steal your book.
Rosie / March 24, 2014 at 07:34 pm
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Science, foreign films and music? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?...
Holy Thundering Jesus / March 24, 2014 at 09:38 pm
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what the hell is a book store?
Frances C Pet / March 24, 2014 at 11:22 pm
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BMV, really? And on the same list as Book City? Holy guac'...
JC / March 25, 2014 at 12:10 am
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The River!
Barbara replying to a comment from Rosie / March 25, 2014 at 09:03 am
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Rosie, your comments are ridiculous. You sound so insecure and defensive. You're also incorrect; ereaders are exceedingly popular. In the past few years ebooks have outsold paper books both in Indigo stores and on Amazon. Notice how the gift section in Indigo stores keeps getting bigger and bigger? That's because they have to sell product to stay afloat, and people just aren't buying paper books anymore.

I don't own an ereader and I likely won't. I'm very sentimental about books; I like the tactile experience, I like rummaging through used book stores, and I like seeing my favourite books sit on my bookshelf. But I'm also not delusional about the future of print media, and I certainly wouldn't make pretentious, holier-than-thou comments on BlogTO because I'm upset people like ereaders more than books.

To conclude, you are ridiculous.
Rosie / March 25, 2014 at 12:49 pm
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LMAO. Yeah, that's it. I'm the one (in a thread on BOOKstores), who is insecure, defensive, and acting holier-than-thou. Defensive, for sure. It's how normal people react when attacked. I object to e-readers, not the people who use them.

Meg, I mean Barbara, I KNEW you sold e-readers. LOL. God I'm good.

Only insecure people change their names to back up their original post.

The truth is, e-reader sales slumped (no demand), and in the last year or so they've done a poor job marketing them. Do you know why? The putz's who made the damn thing didn't put much thought into functionality. Why do you think they're so cheap? Your target audience, is not who you WANT it to be, it's who it IS. This is the same reason why Canadian television and movies don't do well. Always trying to sell us something they think we want, not what we need.

If it's a free plug you're looking for, it's a free plug you'll get. There's lots of e-books and e-magazines available for FREE at your local library. If libraries are smart, they'll, eventually have free e-readers for loan. Support your local libraries. You can at least trust them with your personal information, and they won't sell you out to the highest bidder, for telemarketing purposes.

I knew I'd find something useful about e-readers. I'm sure one can be found even cheaper at a Value Village, buried under some dust.

Most intelligent sales people would have provided rebuttles to the arguments I provided. Not you eh Meg? I mean Barbara. You're not a very good sales person. I'm inclined to question the validity of your statistics.

You did a bit better this time with the "you" statements. I noticed some "I" statements in your second post. Good for you. I'm glad to have helped.

Bueller? Bueller?...
meg replying to a comment from Rosie / March 25, 2014 at 04:04 pm
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Ha, you're funny. Why on earth should I change my name?

Tip for you, Rosie. Next time you want to make sweeping pronouncements about a piece of technology learn a little about it first. You don't come off quite as ignorant that way. You didn't really make any arguments, you just made a series of incorrect statements. Ereaders are not the same as tablets.

Loving reading = you don't care what you read your book on as long as you're reading. Loving books = the story is somehow not as enjoyable if you're not fondling paper while you read.

You should go and read a book, you seem really stressed out.





Basshat / March 25, 2014 at 08:52 pm
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Rosie you are extremely defensive and, for someone pontificating on grown ups using "I" statements, you sure sure do make a lot of "you"statements.
Stephanie / March 25, 2014 at 10:47 pm
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There's no point in books when you have a disability that interferes with reading. Some people are blind/visually-impaired. Some can't hold a book due to paralysis. Others can't use some available alternatives such as audiobooks due to being deaf. The list can go on.

For this reason, e-readers can provide the same opportunities for reading that, face it, most of us all take for granted.

Please keep this in mind before you diss a technology that has made reading accessible for some populations who otherwise wouldn't be able to experience so.
Alex / March 26, 2014 at 09:34 am
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People read in this city???
OG replying to a comment from Barbara / March 26, 2014 at 12:42 pm
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I have to clarify: Canadian publishers' bulk/majority of revenue still comes from print books. Ebooks aren't selling quite as well as everyone thought they would.

The gift section at Indigo stores keeps getting bigger NOT because more people are buying ebooks and have abandoned the print book, but because more people are buying print books ONLINE (i.e. Amazon).

Bookstores (Indigo and independents) have unfortunately become "browsing centres" - notice that many of them are always packed with people? Yep. People love to browse and then buy whatever caught their eye for a discount online.

LESSON: If you truly care about your local bookstores, SHOP there. If you can afford to buy books in the first place, I'm sure you can afford to lose a couple extra bucks that you would save by ordering online.

Phil replying to a comment from Tim / March 26, 2014 at 01:30 pm
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Thanks Tim!
Evan / March 26, 2014 at 10:30 pm
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Lot's to check out. I'm a big fan of 1, 2 and 6. I think TIFF's book shop is pretty great, and if The Beguiling counts, I can't see why it's not on here. I have such nice memories of Mabel's Fables too.
Rosie / March 27, 2014 at 08:32 am
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Who said anything about tablets and e-readers being the same thing? Don't read into my statements, or put words into my mouth. The word tablet isn't anywhere in my posts, nor are any of my statements in reference to tablets. Stick to the facts if you want to pick a fight with me.

I see. So people with visual and physical impairments do better with e-readers as opposed to books? There's equipment that will hold a book if one suffers from any impairment that affects the arms and hands. Do they have one for e-readers yet? Visual impairment? Most people develope impairment after age 40 so the glowing screen isn't suitable for most (when pupils don't dialate properly). Without the glow, it's difficult to read at night (for me and I assume others). If people are blind? They read braille in BOOKS, or they use audio. Some are read to. I'm not saying blind people don't use technology, I just don't know any, (yes I have some friends who are blind). The only disabilty that interferes with reading is not knowing how to read, or a severe disability involving the brain. If you have issues picking up a book, you'll have issues picking up an e-reader, or a toothpick for that matter. Just ask anyone with carpel tunnel.

Other arguments for books? They're difficult to copy, they last forever, it creates calm to be around shelves full of books which look amazing in your home, it's a pleasure to read books, they look great with their beautiful artwork on their covers and dust jackets, childrens books have pictures, the process of making books creates more jobs (the lumber industry would be on my side), and books become valuable with age. Another bonus? Most writers can take comfort in the knowledge, their profits are safer in book format. Keeps the middleman and the pirates at bay (minimizes theft).

An e-reader is just another piece of metal. It's cold and impersonal. It will be obsolete in another year, or so, because they'll come out with another piece of metal. I understand they've added music to e-books recently, a distraction non the less, but at least someone is moving in the right direction with new ideas.

Hey Meg? Do they have science or educational text- e-books for e-readers yet? No? Come on Meg. Show me what you got? What's so hot about e-readers? What's incorrect specifically about my statements? Educate us Meg. So how many e-readers did your company get sucked in to buying?

I'm starting to get the feeling, people who were educated old school with books (and without the internet), are smarter than the people who took their educations from technology. These posts from Meg (and others) are proof of that. I think it's because today, computers do the thinking for us (not me). Heck, you don't even need to learn grammar, spelling or math, because it does that for us (not me) too. No wonder our students are doing so poorly in school.

I highly recommend reading books, for everyone. It's amazing for stress reduction.

Where there is ego, self-confidence can not live. I have no ego.

Stephanie, your statements don't make sense. If books are pointless for disabilities that interfere with reading, then the same is true for e-readers. Don't bother telling me what I can/not say. I'll "diss" what I want as long as I have a mind of my own.
DowntownGuy / March 27, 2014 at 05:54 pm
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How is D&E Lake not on this list? Beats the rest of these hands down.
Jason Mc. / April 1, 2014 at 05:07 pm
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My hobby is collecting books and I love reading. I got rid of my TV so that I could spend more time reading. That was 10 years ago and I don't miss it one bit, in that time I read so many more books.

I can remember when I was younger, going into a used book store was like going into an opium den to me. I would get right stoned on looking through the books. I lived to read books!

Someone gave me an E reader once but I through it away because it had problems.

I will always treasure my books. I don't want an E reader!
e.p. / April 2, 2014 at 04:44 pm
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glad to know there are at least 15 bookstores still open in toronto
Annie / April 14, 2014 at 05:53 pm
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Came to the party late here. Aside from poor sad Rosie, the defensive online warrior, flexing muscles of faux boldness and power from behind the anonymity of her computer (also "just another piece of metal"... "cold and impersonal") I like this site and thread suggestions offered.
My fave bookstore is Type. Small, intimate and inviting.
Would engage more here but the Rosies of the world tend to spoil sites like this getting all up in everyone's faces with egocentric and heavy-handed aggression they mistake for assertiveness.I think Rosie is going to need more than books to provide that serenity she's obviously missing. Poor Rosie.
I wish I had the luxury of space to house all those many books Rosie advocates keeping. Many of us don't have that. Tech-readers to the rescue.
MegNow / April 23, 2014 at 05:38 pm
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Hey Rosie, I'm sorry you don't like e-readers. I don't own one myself but will have to buy one next year because a big portion of my textbooks for school (Most notably science text books) were digital and I can't take another year of reading off the computer screen. I'll be getting a e-reader that isn't back lit (So basically the screen looks like a book, not a computer screen). I assume your comments about the interrogation light are what made (other)Meg assume you were talking about tablets.
So while I don't know of any book stores in Toronto for science books, I do know you can buy a lot of them online in e-book format. If you really want a physical book the only place I can think of to look is the gift store section of the Ontario Science Centre. I'm not 100% sure, but I ~think~ you can get into the gift store without buying a ticket for the whole place. I haven't been there in ages, but I seem to remember they had lots of books.
Home Improvement Ideas / May 21, 2014 at 09:02 am
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Hello, after reading this remarkable arficle i am as well
cheerful to share my experience here with colleagues.
Jane / June 10, 2014 at 10:09 pm
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Hi everyone, I wanted you to know that author Norman Doidge is speaking at a conference dinner at University of Toronto on June 26th 2014
http://bit.ly/1pDPD10
There are a few places left.
Jane
Hanoosh Abbasi / June 13, 2014 at 12:29 pm
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We are a multilingual children's bookstore in Toronto.
Rainbow Caterpillar Multilingual Children's Bookshop imports and distributes children’s books in many different languages- Arabic, Chinese, Farsi, French,Hebrew, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish and many more, from around the world. We are located at 165 Lauder Ave. (Between Dufferin and Oakwood and just north of St.clair)
Pami / July 14, 2014 at 08:56 pm
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My book just got published the Name of it is Counting Smiley Faces by Pami L. Wahl you can order it from Amazon. Com or from my publisher Trafford online lots of bookstore I've talk to told me they are ordering 2 0r 10 copies only. I have family and friends that don't live to far away from you and they can't wait tell your store has this book so they can buy a copy .
Lisa / July 27, 2014 at 09:23 pm
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MY 2 year old loves this book its her best book she take it with her ever where now. Counting Smiley Faces by Pami L. Wahl I found this book on Amazon.com its got nice colors. if you want your child to be ahead of all the other children before they start Kindergarten then this is a most book to get.
You can get it from any book store if you order it from the publishing company Trafford Publishing company great gift for Christmas but order it 6 weeks before Christmas. It says the book for 9 months to 2 years old but I would say a 3 and 4 year old could read it also so try it on these age also. Pass the word on. If you have facebook Face it on it. make this the number one book of the year
John / August 3, 2014 at 10:32 pm
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Is Pami L. Wahl A local Author if so does anybody know if she will be doing a book signing near by for her children book Counting Smiley Faces. in Canada, I hope Bookstores up here will carry here book.
Ernestina / September 10, 2014 at 12:17 am
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Called the "Prenatal Non-discrimination Act, or PRENDA, it would have made it a federal crime to abort a fetus based on gender. Be careful when engaging in oral sex Oral sex is safe during pregnancy, however, there are certain things that should never be done during oral sex, whether you're pregnant or not. He promises a pile of bodies lying in its wake as he faces Booth, Mc - Laughlin, border vigilante leader Von Jackson and his old nemesis Torrez in a final showdown.
Pami L. Wahl / November 4, 2014 at 12:29 am
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Be on the look out in Nov 2014 Counting Zippy the Smiley Faces by Pami L. Wahl will be out on Amazon.com and lot of other websites as well and you can also check your local book store to see if they have it yet. if they don't they can order it from Trafford Publisher.
Christmas is coming get your order in so you get your book on time.

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