Noel’s Cool Spot #7: Montana Valley Book Store (Alberton, MT)

The thing about this place is location, location, location. Sometimes things are just about where you expect them (like a good French restaurant in Wicker Park). And other times the thrill is coming across the familiar in the most unexpected place.

Montana Valley Book Store (Alberton, MT)

Montana Valley Book Store (Alberton, MT)

So there we were, a few miles west of Missoula but several cultural paces away from that fun loving college town. Henna was mostly recovered from the stomach flu but just to be on the safe side we chose the road better traveled (Interstate 90 instead of Route 12 heading toward Mount Rainier). Amongst the road signs (no shortage of places to buy guns and fireworks here) was one advertising for a used book store. Intrigued we turned off the highway and headed a few miles north into small town Montana. Not sure what to expect we were pleasantly surprised by the large used book store (over a hundred thousand used books!) housed in an early 20th century building that was once a small butcher shop.

Jennifer Fredette surrounded by her books

Jennifer Fredette surrounded by her books

Inside we had the pleasure of meeting Jennifer Fredette whose in-laws first opened the book shop in 1975. A native of Long Island, she moved to Montana with her husband eight years ago (assumedly to take over the family business). Jennifer is also a self-taught photographer and some of her work can be found on Facebook ( I was happy to browse among the books and it took Henna just a few minutes to add to her growing car based library (next summer we might pull something to hold all the books). The open road never felt so literate. Noel

Resting train in Alberton, MT (notice the cattle brand decorations)

A few shout outs: While resting at the Missoula KOA we made a few friends. First off are Carrie and Letty who communicated with me as best they could despite me knowing only about twelve signs. Luckily Corey was able to supplement my meager vocabulary and we hope they and their adorable dog have a great time in Seattle. We also want to give a shout out to “Fiddlin’ Quinn.” They came in late and left early, but from my quick conversation with them this morning it appeared that they too are crisscrossing America this summer. Unlike us though, they are engaging in a little busking along the way. You can check them out here or on their website We also greatly enjoyed the attention given to us by the fine folks at the Fact and Fiction book store ( as well as the film centric camera shop The Dark Room ( ) both of which are located in beautiful Missoula. I am writing to you now from a hotel room in Coeur d’Alene, ID and Henna is looking her chipper self.

Henna on the mend

Henna on the mend

5 thoughts on “Noel’s Cool Spot #7: Montana Valley Book Store (Alberton, MT)

  1. greetings from Geneva. I could use an English-language used-book store. It seems like you guys are having another epic adventure!

    • How is traveling to Europe with the kids? We were actually wondering if next year when we go to Europe if there would be any English language used book stores? Hope you guys are having fun.

      • Going well so far. However, I got sick on the plane from San Fran. I was puking in the airplane bathroom when I heard an anouncement “Is there a doctor on board?“ The plane actually had to divert to Salt Lake City to let off an ill elderly woman (who was attended to by a physician feeling better than I was) and we finally got to Geneva 5 hours later than expected. The kids were troopers but it was tough. Now we are just relaxing at my in-laws. The real test will be next week when we leave the comfort of a home and go to Paris.

        I hope you guys have a great, safe climb up Mt. Ranier.

  2. Sorry that poor Henna was sick for awhile. I’m going backwards on your trip. Thought I’d pause here to add that my husband and I and our son went to France for a couple of weeks when our son was four. We flew to Paris, roamed around for a bit; took the train to Avignon and rented a car for a week; drove through Provence and along the Mediterranean; then traveled back to Paris. We had a blast and found it quite an easy thing to do even with a four year-old.

    I’m loving your cross-country tour!

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