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‘We can change the story’: Hummingbird Books takes flight in Chestnut Hill

Hummingbird Books founder Wendy Dodson hugs staff member Shelly McHale on the bookstore’s opening day, April 30. (Claire Law)Claire Law

A new independent bookstore called Hummingbird Books opened April 30 on Independent Bookstore Day at The Street Chestnut Hill. The bookstore is catered to families and features a large installation, “The Great Oak Tree,” in the children’s section.

Wendy Dodson, who lives in Newton and founded the bookstore, said she hopes kids can feel like they’ve been transported into a “magical place.”

“I wanted this to be a centerpiece for the community where parents could bring their kids and have them discover the joy of reading actual books,” said Dodson, who owns another bookstore in Jackson, Wyo., where she lived for about 10 years. “I feel like the world needs reading, so we need to instill that in our children.”

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Dodson said there will be book reading events under the tree, and she hopes the installation will help kids build positive memories associated with bookstores. The next upcoming “storytime” will be June 5, with local author Jennifer Frank.

“When you read a book, you have to put down your iPhone, you have to close your laptop and you go into a different world and learn about different ideas,” Dodson said.

In addition to knick-knacks such as gifts and chocolate from local farms, the store sells a wide selection of books.

Andrea Chiang, who helped found the bookstore, said they are open to planning author events, writing workshops, book clubs and anything the community calls for. Rachel Walerius, Dodson’s stepdaughter who also helped found the bookstore, said they welcome feedback from the community -- even what books and other products they want to see on their shelves.

“What’s great about being an independent bookstore is that we can change the story,” Walerius said. “If people are looking for something totally different, we can get that in for them and make it available.”

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Some of the branches on the “The Great Oak Tree” installation are real tree branches that have been repurposed, said Andrea Chiang, who helped found Hummingbird Books. Claire Law

Walerius said she thinks the pandemic has forced people to rethink the value of local retail.

“People have still remembered that Amazon thrived while everyone else was suffering during the pandemic,” Walerius said. “It was independent stores that people were valuing a lot over the last couple of years.”

Walerius also said bookstores allow people to truly browse a selection since people can touch, feel, and pick a gift for someone.

“You might find an author that you never would have come across if you were looking online,” Walerius said.

Chiang said the bookstore is an important addition to the area.

“A lot of these stores, there’s just not a place for someone to spend $20,” Chiang said.

Walerius said Dodson is bringing her love of books and gifts, as well as passion for building community to the store.

“I think Wendy is what makes it different,” Walerius said. “It’s not going to be run by somebody who is going to open a business and walk away. She really lives and breathes it.”

Dodson said she hopes the store will be a “third place” for the community — away from home or work — that “feeds people in a different way.”

“Hummingbird Books will be a magical place where children discover a love of reading and how reading connects us to others as we search for ideas, wisdom, or just a break from reality,” she said.

Claire Law and Irene Chung can be reached at newtonreport@globe.com.

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Hummingbird Books founder Wendy Dodson, who studied ornithology at Cornell, named the store after her favorite bird and said there will be an extensive nature and science section.Irene Chung