Bookstore Spotlight: DAD SUGGESTS, Fayetteville, AR
In 2018, Ryan Billingsley started DadSuggests.com to share the children’s books and board games beloved by his family. In late 2022—and some 300+ posts later—Dad Suggests has transformed into a one-of-a-kind children’s bookstore in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
The three-month-old shop, situated inside The Shops at BrickCity in the Evelyn Hills Shopping Center, is a family affair. Ryan and his wife order the backlist titles that have been long-treasured favorites, their 10-year-old son spearheads the graphic novel collection, and everyone has a part in handwriting notes and recommendations that they place next to favorite titles. Low, easy-to-reach shelves—many of which display outward-facing books and boardgames—a cozy reading nook with pillows, a teepee, and plenty of story times keep the vibe warm and inviting.
1404 N. College Ave.
Far Back Right Corner
Fayetteville, AR, 72703
Hi Ryan! Plenty of indie bookshops have closed and morphed into websites, so I certainly applaud that you’re going the other route. Can you tell me about the titles you carry? RB: “We have about 1,000 different books in the store right now. The vast majority of those are picture books, but we have a nice quality selection of graphic novels that my son helps with, and some of our all-time-favorite chapter book read-alouds as well. And we also carry a very big, curated selection of our favorite family board games. The split between books and games is close to 75% books and 25% games.”
You make it a point to pay special attention to backlist titles. What are your all-time favorites? “Sometimes people come into the store knowing they want to buy a book for a child, but they have no idea where to start. It's a lot of fun to help them hunt one down, and it's much easier if they're able to point me in a particular direction (Spooky? Funny? Fantasy?), but sometimes they legitimately just want to know what my favorite picture book is. And there are about 4 answers for me. Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen is my favorite picture book of all time, and if someone wants to know that I will certainly tell them.
If they mention they are a teacher, I ALWAYS point out All the Ways to Be Smart by Davina Bell and Allison Colpoys.
I also very frequently recommend I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen and This is Sadie by Sara O'Leary and Julie Morstad (especially now that both are board books!)."
What are your top five books from 2022? "We just released the 5th Annual Dad Suggests Picture Book Awards, featuring our top 10 picture books of 2022, and I'd be more than happy to share my top 5 with you."
5. My Self, Your Self by Esmé Shapiro
"This is a beautiful and very quirky book that simply makes me happy. It also seems to teach great lessons about friendship and loving yourself as well."
4. Mina by Matthew Forsythe
"I'm a big fan of Matthew Forsythe's art, and this was a very worthy follow up to the all-time great Pokko and the Drum. Hilarious and very attractive."
3. Lizzy and the Cloud by The Fan Brothers
"The Fan Brothers are another example of artists we keep a close eye on. This story about a girl who raises a cloud and has to let him go is surprisingly emotional."
2. Ways to Make Friends by Jairo Buitrago and Mariana Ruiz Johnson
"This one is a surprise smash hit. We've actually had trouble getting it in stock in our store because they need to print more. It's spectacular. It's hilarious and quirky and genius."
1. The Queen in the Cave by Juliá Sardá
"This picture book is haunting and moving, and the art is whimsical and full of imagination. It's a story about 3 sisters growing up and growing apart—but on the surface it's spooky and full of endless creativity."