Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge

September 20th, 2010 · No Comments · Books


Mem Fox writes a brilliant and memorable tale of the innocence and simplicity of a child reaching out and connecting with the elderly, who have been forgotten and are forgetting a part of themselves. It is a compassionate story about a little boy who cares enough to gather memories for his older friend and help her find what she may not have noticed she had lost.A young boy named Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge lives next door to an old people’s home and spends time with and knows each of the residents. He overhears his parents talking about his favorite resident Miss Nancy Alison Delecourt Cooper losing her memory and he asks everyone what a “memory” is. After he hears the variety of things a memory can be, he gathers up items that fit those descriptions for him so he can share them with his friend. A marvelous thing happens when Wilfrid shares his items with Miss Nancy…The repetition that was lacking in Fox’s book Hello, Baby! was present in this story as each of the characters defined what a “memory” was to Wilfrid. The repeated phrases lend a rhythm and emphasis to the words. Almost a chant to help the reader and Wilfrid remember. Each answer is different but also true and makes the audience consider their own definition of what a “memory” is.

What I absolutely love about this story is the way the characters are described so fully using so few words. The secondary characters only receive a few descriptive lines allotted to them, yet they felt fully developed. Julie Vivas, the illustrator, provides delicate and expressive watercolors to flesh out the characters. It is clever and subtle how the descriptions of each of the residents is simplified as if from Wilfrid’s point of view, which further develops Wilfrid’s character. Through Wilfrid’s perspective, the reader feels like those descriptions are the most prominent and important characteristics to remember like how “He admired Mr Drysdale who had a voice like a Giant.” His youth and innocence are clearly shown in the way Wilfrid connects with Miss Nancy “because she had four names just as he did… and [he] told her all his secrets.”  His youth, innocence, and generosity are also demonstrated in the careful way he goes about figuring out what a memory is and bringing them to his friend.

The true magic of the story is the implied lesson of compassion and true thoughtfulness: by asking questions and personalizing the answers in relation to himself, then sharing the things that mattered to Wilford, he was able make a connection and a difference to the person he cared about. There is a circular, Zen quality to this story that is very appealing.

Every adult can only wish for as generous and caring a friend as Wilfrid as they age, and every child and adult can learn compassion from him and the way he befriended the elderly.

Ages 4-8.

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