Tuesday, May 7, 2013

what's a memory?


It begins:

There once was a small boy called Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge and what's more he wasn't very old either.

Have you read it? This most beautiful story is about a little boy who lives next door to an old folks' home, and whose favourite old lady there - Nancy Alison Delacourt Cooper - has lost her memory.

He asks all the people in the old folks' home, What's a memory?

Their answers are cryptic, ethereal, esoteric, even contradictory. It's something that makes you laugh, something that makes you cry. It's something as precious as gold. But, armed with their advice, practical Wilfrid sets off to gather some memories for Miss Nancy, because she has lost her own.


Perfectly written by Mem Fox, this one will break your heart in the best way possible. Wilfrid Gordon might seem to approach memory loss and Alzheimer's disease in a naive, childlike way - and he does! - but this book shows the wonderful way that some memories don't have to stay lost, the way objects can be significant and imbued with meaning and just how important it is to make connections with other people - and not just those from your generation. This is how stories are made, and so I hold Wilfrid Gordon close to remind me.

But don't forget the illustrations! You couldn't if you tried... Julie Vivas is some kind of magical watercolour genius. Her pictures bring the story to life in a way that I don't believe anyone else quite could. And it's not just this book, but the others too: The Very Best of Friends, Let the Celebrations Begin, The Tram to Bondi Beach, and of course Possum Magic*. I love her soft colours and distinctive style, I love the droopy socks, I love her chooks.

I don't remember first being read Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge, but my childhood edition has an inscription:
 To dear Kate
Happy Christmas 1985
Love from Mum and Dad
Meanwhile, pictured here is a first edition copy of this, my favourite book. I was given it as a present for my recent, milestoneish birthday by some wonderful friends. It's an old memory, now wrapped in a new one.

*Possum Magic and I are the same age and, as such, share a strong connection ... though Wilfrid Gordon is my true favourite.

18 comments:

  1. ah, a milestonish birthday ... which one would that be, Kate? Many happies! And parents with good taste in children's books. Lucky girl.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. thanks Jo! you know, t.h.i.r.t.y. ain't so bad so far.

      Delete
  2. Oh wow. This book makes me think of what Madeleine L'Engle said: If a book is too difficult for adults, write it for kids. I will definitely have to track this down.

    Hope you had a happy birthday! :)

    -Maggie

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Maggie - that's a lovely quote. I had a great birthday, thank you! I hope you find a copy of Wilfrid Gordon, I think everyone should have one.

      Delete
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