Picture Book Snob
An unforgettable story and a very special bond
The Forgettery by Rachel Ip and Laura Hughes
“Now some people don’t believe in The Forgettery, And some people have simply forgotten about it. But for those who believe in it, it’s a place where you can find anything you have ever forgotten.”
On one of their walks together, Amelia and her granny wander deep into the woods and stumble on The Forgettery. This is a magical storage vault for misplaced memories. Amelia and Granny explore and remember past experiences, while also receiving instructions on how to make important moments last.
No matter how often we read The Forgettery, I'm incapable of getting to the closing lines without bursting into tears. But it’s not a sad book; it’s full of joy and love, which is partially why it’s so moving. Another reason is that it’s never explicitly stated, but is implied, that Amelia’s granny is in the early stages of dementia. Amelia and Granny’s relationship is wonderful and recalls my own granny and how close my kids are to theirs. Although Amelia and Granny’s bond is celebrated by the story, it is never overly sentimental or saccharine. Their affection is at the heart of the book but it’s never the focal point, nor is the plot ever sacrificed in order to demonstrate it.
One of my favourite aspects of this book is how when Amelia and Granny express their love for each other, it’s not over the top. They use simple and direct language instead of making grand gestures. Their feelings are far more genuine, and the message is much more meaningful, as a result.
The Forgettery is an intriguing and compelling concept, cleverly designed to capture the imaginations of children. My kids love looking at its rooms, the items they contain and the flashbacks that float around Amelia and Granny when they’re inside them. As a setting, it’s perfect for a picture book and really comes alive in the illustrations — I’d love to visit it myself.
It’s so easy to get lost in the images! They’re absolutely stunning with a gentle energy, a gorgeous palette and a warming glow, and contain lots of interesting and attractive details. My children were delighted to spot a dodo in many of the scenes and love how he travels by bucket (when I was young, one my favourite pizzerias used to have a similar apparatus for sending orders to the kitchen). They’re also very taken with the hot air balloon which transports visitors around The Forgettery.
The text is beautiful too and includes many lyrical lines. One of my favourite sentences describes the restored recollections as, “Moments of delight, lost and forgotten, fluttering in the room like butterflies, paper thin and delicate.” The butterfly is an excellent metaphor and it’s brilliant how the returned memories appear on butterfly wings in the illustrations. My girls spend ages looking at and speculating about each one.
Granny’s memory loss is handled subtly and sensitively; it looks like she is in hospital as the book concludes, but this is not mentioned by the text. The story can be enjoyed without ever addressing this subject, yet it’s also ideal if you need to explain or discuss it with children. The guidelines Amelia receives from the Memory Keeper can be followed by little readers and their families whether or not they know someone like Granny. This incredibly poignant and powerful story is itself unforgettable!
About the author:
After reading hundreds of picture books to her children (and some of those hundreds of times), Rachel Ip started writing her own stories. She is now an award-winning picture book author and my stories are often inspired by real-world events or experiences. Learn more about Rachel and her books on her website
About the illustrator: Laura Hughes is an award-winning illustrator whose artwork has featured on greetings cards, gift-wrap, packaging and stationery in countries all over the world. Laura participates in the Bookpen Pals scheme which pairs authors and illustrators with UK schools to foster a love of books. See more of Laura's work on her website
The Forgettery was published by Farshore Books (formerly Egmont) in March 2021 - see this book on the publisher's website and download free teaching activity packs