“You may have tangible wealth untold:

Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.

Richer than I you can never be –

I had a Mother who read to me”.

(Strickland Gilliaia)



Our  Mother read to us.  Through the long winter nights she turned page after page and took us on journeys to enchanted places filled with fairy tale castles, dragons, witches, and exotic adventures.




There was one book that was among my favorites.  A slim scarlet volume titled GRANNY’S WONDERFUL CHAIR, by Francis Browne –  a series of stories with  prose so beautiful it reads like poetry.  The book is about a little girl   left alone  by her grandmother.   The grandmother tells her “when you feel lonely lay your head gently down on the cushion of the arm-chair, and say “Chair of my grandmother tell me a story.”

Several  house moves and the book simply  disappeared.  I never forgot the book .   I looked for it for years.  I searched used  book stores the length and breadth of Canada.   It was printed in England  so I searched  musty  book stores in   London and  Edinburgh,  tiny villages in the south of England and windswept towns in the North of Scotland.  To no avail.

Many lives ago in a conversation with a  fellow television  writer I discovered she had a copy of the book.  I offered her $100 for it. At that time a week’s salary.  She cherished it as much as I wanted it, and no amount of money could tempt her to part with her copy of GRANNY’S WONDERFUL CHAIR.

More than forty years later I discovered an  old bookstore  McLeod’s on Pender Street in Vancouver.  Again and again I returned to the book store,  always leaving with a book but never the one I sought.

McLeod’s children’s book section was to the right of their entrance.  I ALWAYS turned  right first.  One  day  I saw a tiny red book  leaning casually against its friends.  I circled the shelf watching the book out of the corner of my eye.   My heart  beat faster, my mouth was dry, my hands trembled as I finally reached for GRANNY’S WONDERFUL CHAIR.





There’s two parts to this tale of GRANNY’S WONDERFUL CHAIR.  Many many years before I found my book my  daughter and I attended an estate auction.   We had  successfully bid on a few items when this magnificent chair came out.  It was adorned with  needle point and had a matching stool.  The frame was elaborately carved mahogany and it had wheels.   The chair  looked a little well-worn and well-loved.  I too fell in love.    When I got this most elegant of chairs home I realized what I had done.   I had bought Dame Frostyface’s wonderful chair.



“…the only good piece of furniture in the cottage was a great arm-chair with wheels on its feet, a black velvet cushion, and many curious carvings of flowers and fawns on its dark oaken back.  On that chair Dame Frostyface sat spinning from morning til night to maintain herself and her granddaughter.”



Francis Browne the author of this book published in 1906 was a poet, and blind.

”  Each little tale has its own picturesque setting, its own vividly realized scenery.  Her power of visualization would be easy to understand had she become blind in the later years of her life, when the beauties of the physical world were impressed on her mind ; but Frances Browne was blind from infancy.

Whence came her vision of the old woman who weaved her own hair into grey cloth at a crazy loom; of the fortified city in the plain, with cornfields and villages; of floors of ebony and ceilings of silver; of swallows that built-in the eaves while the daisies grew thick at the door”.

I  can not but help believe some small bit of magic dust clings to  each word I read aloud from this book.

I have the dearest of friend who became extremely ill.  I read out loud to her the stories from GRANNY’S WONDERFUL CHAIR .  The hospital bed, the pain,  seemed to disappear as the words encircled the room and took her to another place.

Like all good fairy tales, this story also had a happy ending.































  1. I too treasure that book and the stories, the poetic prose, the magical people in the book, their clothes, the interesting story lines, the attention to visual detail, the prefect ending — so wonderful! My mother had one copy of the book and when she died two of us really wanted that book! The two who had small children, of course. Luckily I found another copy in a used book store so we didn’t have to draw straws.

    I just went online today curious to see if anyone else was a devotee of Grannies Wonderful Chair, and I ended up here, making a comment on your blog! Cheers, Kathy Highcove

  2. This was so lovely to read.
    It’s amazing how stories that we read or had read to us as children stay with us for such a long time.
    My love of books and of writing stem from the amazing places books took me to when I was a child.
    Thank you for sharing this and I am delighted to discover you.

    • I still love to be read to Pat. There have been times in my life this last five years that were very difficult for me. My Good Husband would read me to sleep. I didn’t care what he read. It was just so lovely to be indulged in this way. Virginia

  3. You created a magic atmosphere – I can feel the smell of the old book and I know how it feels when you sit on that beautiful armchair. The old things are beautiful because they borrow the stories/the thoughts of their owners. (the old pen for example..)

    • There is the romance to old objects that belonged to someone else. I do know the chair belonged to the wife of a Judge. The book has nothing written on the fly leaf and considering its age is in almost pristine condition. Virginia

  4. Virginia, I was gripped by this post. Beautifully written. Some childhood memories are so precious. So pleased you found a copy of the book. Wonderful chair. What a treasure.
    Regards Florence x

  5. Virginia I love a story with a happy ending : ) Book stores have always been some of my favorite places. I just love the smell of paper. I remember as a child we would spend weekends with my Aunt and she would read us Rudyard Kipling’s ” Just so stories” Some of my fondest childhood memories. Thanks for sharing. BTW I’ve got a special surprise coming to you in the mail : ) Ginny

    • That will be me – hanging around the mail box – looking up and down the road for the mail car.
      It seems Ginny that those of us who share so many of the same sensibilities love paper . The feel of it. The smell. We are a funny group. Virginia

  6. Nostalgic and touchy post! Reminded me how well granny used to narrate the stories, especially when we turned cranky.All her belongings, including her favourite homeopath medicine box is still there and we haven’t replaced any of ’em.

    • We need to hold our books close, and our friends closer. I can’t resist zeroing in on book shelves in peoples home. They tell me who you are. But what does one do when there is not a book, newspaper or magazine in sight. I think – what a bleak existence. What a narrow life. Virginia

  7. I’m with Philosopher Mouse. My favorite childhood books had the best art. I don’t know how those books disappeared, but I’ve been looking for them at garage sales and antique shops ever since. Although I have a library of books special to me, I also try to “release” books. I send them out into the world so others can enjoy them, and hopefully leave them for someone else. There’s an organization where you can register a book and put instructions in the front, then each person who subsequently reads it can register it. IIt’s fun to watch books circle the globe. Fly…literary treasures…fly!

    • This is a brilliant idea. I buy extra copies of books I really enjoy and then hand them out to people I think will enjoy them. I don’t want them back. I suggest they pass the book on when they’re finished with. Virginia

  8. I remember when my kids were young and they would bring me book after book to read to them. I had to do the voice everytime. I would get so tired of reading the same book over and over. You know now that the kids are grow, I miss reading to them…

  9. My world is very large. It has to be – for there must be a place there for everyone who believes in magic. There must be room to spare for those who nibble chocolate while they converse with rabbits. And a very large space for couples in love to dance a fandango to the music of guitars and castanets.

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