Sunday, January 15, 2012

Book #15: Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox, Illustrated by Julie Vivas

Image from Amazon.com
Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge is a small boy with a big name. He lives next door to a retirement home and he’s friends with all the residents, from Mr. Hosking who tells him crazy stories to Miss Mitchell who walks with a wooden stick. But Wilfrid’s favorite is Miss Nancy Alison Delacourt. She has a name as long as his and he tells her all his secrets. Wilfrid is confused when his parents tell him that Miss Nancy has lost her memory. He’s not quite sure what a memory is, so he asks his friends at the home. He gets many answers, “Something warm”, “Something that makes you laugh”, “Something as precious as gold.” Armed with this new information Wilfrid sets about finding memories for Miss Nancy. He finds a puppet on a string that makes people laugh, a football that’s as precious as gold to him, etc. Wilfrid brings his box of memories to Miss Nancy and each object reminds her of a tiny bit of her past. So in a way, Wilfrid was able to find her lost memory.

The illustrations are soft and some of the edges are a bit blurry, colors are sundrenched and faded. The color and texture is appropriate since it’s a book about memories. The The text is simple and to the point. It’s a sentimental story, but the prose isn’t dripping with sugary phrases.

Image from Kane/Miller Kidlit blog
I love that this book features a friendship between two people so dissimilar in age. It’s easy for children to be exposed only to friends their own age. However, I think that it’s important for children to learn how to behave and interact with people of all ages. Not only will it expand their horizons, it will also help them become more compassionate and empathetic.

This is a quiet book that’s nice to share one on one. Sit down with your child and make a list of memories, one for each of the qualities mentioned in the book. It may take a bit to get their brains going, so you might make a few suggestions. If they can’t think of a warm memory, try reminding them of the sweltering hot day this summer, what did they do on that day? If your child likes to draw, have them illustrate each memory (you may need more paper). Save this list of memories. If you read the book again in a few weeks or months, pull the list out and see what they think of their list of memories. Do they still remember them? Do they want to add more memories or change them?

This is an excellent book for children who have grandparents or relatives who are losing their memory due to Alzheimer’s or dementia. It can be difficult for kids to understand what memory loss means, especially since they only remember a few years themselves. Read this book before you visit that relative and use it as a way to talk about what to expect during the visit.

Bring out a photo album and look at photos of the relative or friend you’re going to visit. Not only does this make kids more comfortable with the people before they see them in person, it’s a good way to talk about memories and how different people have different memories of the same person or event. 

-Amy

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