If you're shopping for a kid who wonders why the princesses in her picture books range from white-blond to golden-blond with nothing in between, it's time to stop in at Shades of Sienna on Grand Avenue at the north end of Lake Merritt. While co-owners Anita Alexander and Susan Payne -- co-authors of the book Gingersnaps: Daily Affirmations for African-American Families -- opened Shades of Sienna to address the vacuum of children's books featuring African-American themes, it's really a wonderful bookstore for kids of all hues and a welcome antidote to the chains, which tend to save pictures of brown children for Black History Month. Shades of Sienna is small but it's sunny, cheerful, and well-laid-out. In addition to books and a carefully chosen selection of dolls and toys, there's a kid-sized reading area, work by local artists on the walls, and -- unusual for a bookstore -- a custom framing operation in the back. And the princesses -- and queens, scientists, astronauts, poets, and so forth -- look a lot more real.
Readers' Pick for Best Specialty Bookstore: Boadecia's Books