Dear Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge,
You weren’t supposed to be my first letter, but recent events conspired with story time planning and you happened across my path once again.
You are such a lovely story – a young boy lives next to a nursing home, and is friends with all the residents. His very best friend is Miss Nancy Alison Delacourt Cooper (because she has four names too), but one day Wilfrid realizes that Miss Nancy isn’t entirely herself. He finds out that she has ‘lost’ her memory, so Wilfrid asks around to find out what exactly a memory might be in order to return it to his friend. He gathers a basket of “something warm”, “something from long ago” and other examples of a memory, and brings them to share with his friend.
I’m a firm believer that the right book comes along just as you need it, and that even a beloved classic has something new to teach you. Your gentle illustrations and deceptively simple text belies a powerful message about memory loss and how we interact with those who are losing their memory. Miss Nancy has plenty of memories, but they aren’t the ones of present day, and Wilfrid’s collection of items releases a flood of childhood emotions in her. His delight in being able to help his friend, coupled with her joy in holding each object and being transported back to another point in her life is timeless. No wonder you are Mem Fox’s bestselling book and have never gone out of print.
We’re going through something similar right now, and I’ll admit that it’s not easy, Wilfrid. However, your gentle example has reminded me that, right now, the present day can be confusing and frightening for my mother, and that bringing out a memory from her past is an easy way to make her happy. We’ll begin to surround ourselves with our own ideas of “something warm”and “something from long ago” that we can share with her to make each day a little less confusing.
Still, I think your story hits a little too close to home right now, and I’m not quite ready to read you at story time. You’ll have to wait your turn, Wilfrid but that’s okay – you are a very patient book. When I’m ready, you’ll be there, and I’m absolutely sure I’ll still cry when I read you aloud again.
Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge lives next door to a nursing home in which several of his good friends reside. Of course, his favorite is Miss Nancy Alison Delacourt Cooper, because she has four names just as he does. The only problem is Miss Nancy, who is 96, has “lost” her memory. Undaunted, Wilfrid sets out to “find” Miss Nancy’s memory for her
Wilfred Gordon McDonal Partridge by Mem Fox. ISBN: 9781862910645. Topical terms: Big books, Old age, Memory, Friendship.
Wondering why I’m writing letters to books? I’ve been inspired by Annie Spence’s lovely book, Dear Fahrenheit 451. Check out my introductory post for more information.