Sunday, December 30, 2012

Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox illustrated by Julie Vivas

As a young child I regularly visited my little Nana in nursing home and now as an adult I am sadly visiting my mum each day as she has moved into care.  Memories are a slippery thing. I can hardly remember anything about my early years at school, for example, and yet I was there every day of the year.  Equally as a teenager I traveled with my family to Europe but most of this three month long trip is lost to me now.  Loss of memory is not something confined to the old but older people do feel this loss more acutely.  I know my mum does.

An old people's home, a nursing home, a care facility what ever you call it, is the setting for Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge.  Wilfrid lives next door and he is a regular and very welcome visitor.  I can certainly testify that a visitor with a smile and a word or two can lighten the day of an older person.  He knows all the people "But his favourite person of all was Miss Nancy Alison Delacourt Cooper because she had four names just as he did. He called her Miss Nancy and told her all his secrets."

Wilfrid overhears his parents talking about how Miss Nancy has lost her memory.  Wilfred is a curios and persistent boy so he goes in search an answer to the most important question of all -  what is a memory.  Each older person shares their wisdom with Wilfrid.

"Something warm"
"Something from long ago"
"Something that makes you laugh"
"Something as precious as gold"

To us these might seem like intangible things but not to Wilfred.  He sets off to find memories for Miss Nancy.  He finds a shoe box of shells he gathered last summer, a puppet that always made people laugh, a medal from his grandfather, his football and a warm egg from under a hen.  He gives these treasures to Miss Nancy "then she started to remember... and the two of them smiled and smiled because Miss Nancy's memory had been found again by a small boy, who wasn't very old either."

This is such a precious book.  If you have not seen it try and find it soon - you will be richly rewarded by this special reading experience.  Read Mem Fox's  thoughts about this book listen to her reading the story.  You could try a readers theatre version of this story and here are some detailed lesson ideas.  You can also see the whole book here and a review.

There is so much warmth in the illustrations by Julie Vivas. You just want to hug Wilfrid and his friends. I notice that my copy of this book is signed by Julie Vivas.  I know I have met her several times but I have no memory of where or when this signing happened.  It was fun to discover this today. After reading this book look for another old book long out of print called A rabbit named Harris by Nan Hunt.  It is another special book that deals with the difficult issue of memory loss in the old in a gentle and sensitive way.


Amy Seto Forrester said...

Thanks so much for linking to my review of this book. It's one of my all time favorites.

Happy new year,

Momo said...

Thanks for noticing I made the link. Your review showed your passion for this important Australian book which I first read in 1984,

Scarlet Robin said...

I read this to my pre-school students, then to my middle school students, then to elementary aged students and now to ESL students and my own children. It is one of my favorite books ever, and the pictures by Julie Vivas among the finest illustrations in all of children's literature! Thank you!

Scarlet Robin said...

For nearly 20 years I have read this book to my students--from pre-school to high school aged, and of course my own children. It is such a precious story, and Julie Vivas' illustrations perfectly capture the poignancy and innocence of Fox's story. Yay for bringing it up!