This picture book, Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge, is written by well-known children’s author, Mem Fox, and illustrated by Julie Vivas. I love this book and used it to teach my 8th graders the critical thinking skill of synthesizing.
When Wilfrid hears his parents discussing his favorite person, Miss Nancy, he doesn’t understand why she is a “poor old thing”. Learning that she has lost her memory, Wilifrid begins a quest to understand the meaning of memory.
He questions several people in the home and they provide him with their own definition of memory:
- something warm
- something that makes you cry
- something that makes you laugh
The thinking skill of taking several items or ingredients and creating something completely different is known as Synthesis. I always compare it to cooking from a recipe that has several ingredients, and the end product is a cake.
Wilifred decides to gather items that would help Miss Nancy find her memory, and of course he picked things that made sense to him:
- a string puppet that made him laugh
- a fresh warm egg
- the medal his grandfather had given him which made him sad
When he gave his basket of treasures to Miss Nancy, she thought they were wonderful. As she pulled out each one, she started to remember. The puppet on strings reminded her of the puppet she had shown to her little sister.
The happy ending is that Wilifred helped Miss Nancy find her memory. Let the gentle story and soft pictures charm your preschooler OR use it to teach middle schoolers this sophisticated thinking. Then challenge them to write a children’s story modeled after this one.
Another important aspect (for students of any age) is to identify the moral of the story. Depending on the age of the child/student this book can guide them to a better understanding of aging and memory.
I am thankful for authors and illustrators of children’s books who create literature that is rich, deep, and inspiring.