A Village’s Gem – Mabel’s Fables

Linger and Learn Mount Pleasant Village

If you prefer to watch the interview, please, click here.

Eleanor Lefave holds a picture frame up to the camera. Along with the first dollar bills her store ever earned is a picture of the building the current store occupies. A modest electronics store, complete with wood panelling and what Eleanor describes as “scary” tangerine carpeting. The building is virtually unrecognisable today, now sporting cheerful blue and purple awnings, with a cat curled up in the window. This is Mabel’s Fables, Mount Pleasant Village’s beloved children’s bookshop.

This September will mark thirty-fives years since Mabel’s Fables opened. The brainchild of Eleanor Lefave and her sister Susan McCulloch, Mabel’s Fables is the Midtown gem known all over the city. Stepping into the store, you can feel the care that has gone into the creation of the Mabel’s Fables, a care that has remained in all the decades it has been open. While the orange nightmare carpet is long gone, the warm wood panelling remains, lending a homey feel to the store. You can head upstairs and read on your choice of cozy couch or armchair, surrounded by the autographs of dozens of authors who have passed through the store. Regardless of what book you decide to pick up, you will end up with a good read. All books in the shop are carefully selected by Eleanor and her team. Due to the smaller size of the store, they simply “don’t have room for anything mediocre”.

Unlike many other bookstores, Mabel’s Fables is organised by age rather than alphabetically. This organisational quirk represents a disagreement between Eleanor and Susan, won by Eleanor. Ever the librarian, Susan advocated for the bookstore to be alphabetical. Eleanor, mother to a small child, was all too familiar with why this wouldn’t be a good move for the store. Parents don’t often have a lot of time in shops to browse until something catches their eye. However, every parent knows the age of their child. By organising the shop by age, all shoppers can easily locate the perfect book. This unique layout of the store has become their hallmark.

That, and Mabel herself. The store is now on their third Mabel, who can often be seen snoozing in the window or strutting along the shelves. Before the store opened, Eleanor knew she wanted to have a proper old fashioned bookshop cat. They also needed a name for their store. Knowing that children love to play with rhymes, they eventually landed on Mabel’s Fables. All of the shop cats have been adopted from Toronto Cat Rescue. These older cats take well to the job and flourish in their customer service role. Mabel III proudly carries on the tradition.

Ask any resident of Mount Pleasant Village and they will likely have their own special memories of Mabel’s Fables. Eleanor recalls that she has seen her customers grow from children to coming in with their own children. Unsurprisingly, Mabel’s Fables customers are fiercely protective, and it is this support that saw the store through the pandemic. At one point, the store had its doors shut for over ten months. An influx of online orders saw the shop through this difficult period. Thankfully Mabel’s Fables is here to stay, for many more generations of children (and Mabels) to enjoy.

Don’t forget to check out Mabel’s Fables Book Club on their website and social media!

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We have 8 different stories at 8 different locations! Check out our map to find other places for you to rest and learn more about our neighbourhood!

Thank you to our Sponsors 

This initiative has been funded by the Government of Canada through the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario), and the City of Toronto’s Main Street Innovation Fund.

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