Book Club

‘Books are for all ages’: Meet Buttonwood Books & Toys manager Kimi Loughlin

Loughlin tells's Book Club what makes Malinda Lo's young adult novel "A Scatter of Light" so relatable.

Kimi Loughlin
Kimi Loughlin is the store manager at Buttonwood Books and Toys. Photo courtesy of Kimi Loughlin

Some bookstores occupy a special place in people’s memories, and as a fixture in the Cohasset community since 1988, Buttonwood Books and Toys does just that, said store manager Kimi Loughlin. Parents in the community remember frequenting the bookshop while growing up, and in turn, bring their kids to visit the warm and welcoming space.

“When we see these customers every weekend, every other weekend, buying these gifts, you get to know their kids, what they’re buying and what they get,” Loughlin said. “I just love that sense of community.”

Buttonwood Books and Toys has an especially strong children’s section, said Loughlin. The space is whimsically decorated, featuring a yarn tree and a sign that says “Arts and Crafts,” made out of crayons. Giant stuffed animals sit on display, and in the play area, there are magnetic toys for youngsters to play with. Parents can shop while their kids will stay entertained.

“When you walk into the store, the kids’ section is slightly towards the middle, and right behind it [are] the toys. You immediately lean into all of this color, with all of the arts and crafts,” Loughlin said. She added, “[There’s] a place for kids to socialize, which during and post-pandemic was really important, especially [for] kids who hadn’t seen people for a lot of their lives.”


Loughlin used to work in company management in the theater arts in New York City but came back to her hometown when the pandemic hit. Because theater was on pause, she lost her job and returned to Cohasset to save money. She had always loved reading and applied to Buttonwood, where she started working in January 2021. Realizing that she did not miss theater as much as she thought she would, she felt that she “want[ed] to do this for good.”

“This is what I want to keep on doing,” Loughlin said. “I’d like to open up my own bookshop in 10 to 15 years.” She added, “I had never really worked in retail before. In theater, in company management, my whole job was taking care of people. … In the store, it’s like the same exact thing, but in shorter bursts. Someone comes in, they’re searching for something, and you can just find the perfect book.”’s Book Club is featuring Malinda Lo’s “A Scatter of Light,” as this month’s pick, and Loughlin will be in conversation with the author. The young adult novel is a queer coming-of-age story, following Aria Tang West, a teen looking forward to spending time with her friends at Martha’s Vineyard the summer before college. When things go awry, she is sent off to live with her grandmother in California instead. But vacation turns out to be more tumultuous than expected when she begins a romance with her grandmother’s gardener, Steph, and meets the Bay area’s working-class queer community.


Ahead of the book talk, Loughlin told that she enjoyed the way that Lo built character development.

“I really liked the relationship between Aria and her grandmother,” Loughlin said. “[Aria] gets sent to California as a punishment because she had gotten in trouble with her friends. I loved the bonding that happened. She was kind of surly. She didn’t want to be there. … But then they learn to live with each other. I love that development. They obviously love each other… But at the same time, they’re mad about certain parts of the life they’re in. Over the course of the book, they reconcile the relationship.”

While “A Scatter of Light” is a young adult novel, Loughlin said that she believes readers of any age can relate to it.

“I’m a firm believer that books are for all ages,” she said. “Young adult as a genre was created because there are kids that need books that aren’t quite yet adult themed. But there are so many books in that genre that anyone can read and relate to. We were all teenagers at one point. We all have these feelings. They translate so well. … I think Malinda’s especially are so easy for adults to relate to. I feel like the themes are very universal. They don’t just apply to kids, yet her main characters just happen to be teenagers.”


Loughlin will speak with Lo on May 30, at 6 p.m., about the luminous novel, which she said “envelops you” in its narrative.