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Doors may close, but their contents carry on

Little piece of Granny Bates lives on at Memorial

By Heidi Wicks

Beloved children’s bookstore Granny Bates has closed its doors, but a piece of the legend is now pulsating good vibes in the Faculty of Education’s Curriculum Materials Centre (CMC), which already houses a hefty library of over 25,000 children’s books.

The door that was once at the top of the stairs at Granny Bates includes signatures, doodles and messages from well over 50 authors, including Robert Munsch, Robin Muller, Kevin Major, Andy Jones, Joan Clark, Ben Wicks and more.

“Every time an author would do a reading at the store, they would sign the door,” said Alison Mews of the CMC. When Ms. Mews got wind that the store was closing, she made a bold move.

“Shameless, eh?” she laughed. “But the reason for wanting it was two-fold – preservation was my first thought. It was a unique piece of Canadian literary history that I felt couldn’t possibly be painted over or relegated to a dusty basement, and I thought putting it on display here was a perfect place as our children’s literature students would really appreciate it as they learned about these author’s books. And they have! Often they stop in groups and point out certain author’s or illustrator’s signatures.” Margorie McMillan, former co-owner of Granny Bates, is thrilled at the door’s new home.

“Alison has been a lover and promoter in children’s literature across the country, and if I were ever to have grandchildren they might not go to my graveyard, but they might see that we tried to make a contribution.”

Ms. McMillan said the initial idea to have people sign the door wasn’t really original, but felt it was a nice way to have a tangible reminder of the people who visited. She recalled her favourite visiting author as profoundly impacting the children and store owners:

“Phoebe Gellman, who wrote the Jillian Jiggs books – ‘Jillian Jiggs, it looks like your room has been lived in by pigs,’” she recalled with a smile. “The last time she visited was probably only a year or so before she died, and we loved her. You remember her, so when she came, kids literally were lined up around the block to see her.

“It wasn’t something that produced a lot of sales for us, but she autographed and drew a picture of a pig in every single book.”

The author also drew the pig picture on the door.

Whether the signing tradition will continue is unknown as of now.

Ms. Mews said she had no intention of continuing the tradition of having children’s authors or illustrators sign the door. However, children’s author Jeremy Tankard recently gave a reading in the CMC and, upon the students’ requests, added his John Henry to the door.
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