this book

Jennifer Uncategorized 14 Comments

Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge

Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge

Written by Mem Fox

Illustrated by Julie Vivas

I have a love hate relationship with this book. I find it challenging and confronting. In truth, I’m no longer able to read it.

It came into my life when my little guy was around two. It trotted home with us from the town library. We were both excited to have nabbed it. A little victory of sorts.

I couldn’t wait to read it. I had no idea of the story line. At the time I was really impressed by the writing of Mem Fox and Julie Vivas rocked my world more than 20 years ago with the release of Possum Magic. Also written by Mem Fox. If you haven’t read Possum Magic…I find it hard to believe that there could be anyone who hasn’t…but if you haven’t then you really should. It’s so beautifully written and illustrated!

Anyhoo, I had no idea that Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge was about a boy who lived next door to an aged home. As a young child he plays around the residents. Seeing their frailty through the eyes of a child. When he discovers that ‘his favourite person of all’, Miss Nancy Alison Delacourt Cooper has lost her memories he sets about finding them for her. As only a child can.

He manages to bring back memories to a mind that had lost them. He brings back her past through the familiar objects of every day. He performs an innocent miracle.

In short it’s Alzheimers through the eyes of a child.


I struggled through this book. I read it once, six years ago and vowed that I would never read it again.

It made me cry….and cry and cry and cry.

So what happens at the end of the last school year?

The Little Bush Princess’s pre-school gives her a copy as a Christmas gift.

I avoided reading the book for weeks. Until one day she unearthed it in the course of her daily deconstruction of the home and it’s soft furnishings.

‘Can we have this for story time?’

‘We’ll see…’

She’ll forget.

She didn’t.

I read it. All over again I was spellbound by Julie’s illustrations. I was captivated by the colours and textures of her fabrics, her beautiful cane furniture….once again I was in awe of her talent…but I couldn’t ignore the words. It’s the words that pull me apart.

I got halfway through before TLBP realised she was being wet by my tears. It makes me cry because of this man.


This is my Pop. All dressed up as the soldier that he was and at an age when I never knew him.

When I knew him he was a grandfather.

My grandfather.

He was lovely. A mystery to me in so many ways.

I wish I’d had more time to know him.

Unfortunately Alzheimers robbed my grandfather of his memories, his history, his stories and his relationships. Unfortunately he wasn’t part of a children’s book. Nothing could give them back to him once the disease had taken them from him.

I can still tell you where we were the last time he knew who I was and called me ‘Jenny Love’.

I can close my eyes and see his wavy, silken white hair and I see him everyday in the face of my son. He smiles at me when my brother smiles and some days I’m sure that he’s still here when I see my uncle. For this reason there are times when I find it very hard to look at my uncle. The resemblance is so striking.

It’s because of him that I just can’t read this book…..but I can still look at the pictures right?

As Mr Drysdale, one of the characters of the book, says when he’s asked by Wilfrid…

‘What’s a memory?’

‘Something as precious as gold, young man, something as precious as gold.’

Comments 14

  1. Hayley

    Memories are precious as gold. This was my favourite book when I was little, I loved the pictures and the story. At the time my mother worked at a nursing home so I think I related it to the visits I had there. Now fifteen years later the story very much relates to my Grandparents and your words brought tears to my eyes. I am going to dig around my parents house till I find my old book again.

  2. karen

    Very touching entry Jen. You have amazing compassion and empathy. I haven’t heard of this book until now but, would love to let my son read it. Because I work in health I am consciously aware of wanting to make my children aware of the many life issues around. Your emotions are very powerful and something to be embraced. Your children will learn so much from you. Once again thank you for being so powerfully honest.

  3. janie

    jen you have made me cry just reading your blog I am going to order it off amazon today
    thankyou for sharing your feelings it simply adds to my knowledge that you are a warm loving and very talented lady xx

  4. Kim

    What a touching post. I have never seen this book, but lost a very dear mentor to alzheimers. It’s a crushing disease. Your tribute to your dad is beautiful even in it’s sadness.

  5. Kelly O.

    What a good looking man…I’m sorry that you lost him so early.Alzheimer’s steals the elderly away before their body is ready to go. It’s an awful state. I’m sorry for your loss.

  6. Gemma

    Oh Jen, your words are so clear and show what precious people mean in our lives. Memories are as precious as gold and as you say, you remember where you were the last time your Pop called you ‘Jenny Love’. Your Pop sure was a handsome fella. Of course he lives on in all of you. I hope you’re not too sad today. Thinking of you x

  7. audrey

    Hi Jenny,
    Your post about the book Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge and your pop is so very touching and heartfelt. What a special relationship you must have had with him…I am sad for you that you don’t have him anymore…I have seen this book before but never read it so just might give it a go..

    I also loved what you did with ‘Charlie and Lola’ – so cute and very, very clever! And I was glad to hear that Golden Boy and his dad had lots of fun camping, how special!

    Thank you, thank you, thank you too, for Bramble and Poppy! They both made it to me very safely and are just lovely. Thank you so much! And the kids are absolutely loving their bed monsters, they get taken EVERYWHERE!XX

  8. Mary E.Dadds

    I found this site when i went to visit the woolen rabbit.
    Our family has an a friend that has just been diagnosed
    with Dementia.
    And it is as painful for me as if she were my own mother.
    We went to visit her and her memory was in and out.
    But she told me that she loved me and i want to believe in that moment she was there with us.

  9. Kathy

    What a beautifully sad and touching post. I too cried! My Pop (the last Grandparent to leave us – almost 3yrs ago) would be celebrating his 91st birthday on Thursday if he were still here, so I am feeling particularly melancholy this week. Thank you for reminding us all how precious our older generation is.
    Kathy xx

  10. bethany

    Oh Jen, my heart is aching right now. I have friends who have loved ones with Alzheimers. I can’t imagine. But the last time I saw my Grandma, it took her a minute to recognize me and that broke my heart. I stayed away too long because of it. And now she’s gone. At least we always have the good memories. Your Pop was a very handsome man. And you are very lucky to have had his love for the time that you did. Just remember that! It is probably one of the reasons you are such a loving person too! Big Hugs!!!

  11. Jen

    What a post! This had me in tears. Your Pop sounds like the most wonderful man. The photo of him is beautiful. I was a bit of a mess after reading Amy and Louis! Shudder to think what I’d be like after reading this!

    Thanks for sharing.

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