TTLG Author/Illustrator Profiles

Mem Fox

Mem Fox

The name ‘Mem Fox’ has a special significance for both children and adults, educators, students and critics. Mem Fox is recognised around the world as a writer, storyteller and passionate advocate of teaching, literacy and learning. m Fox is considered Australia's most popular children's author. She was born Merrion Frances Partridge in 1946. She was born in Melbourne, Australia but grew up in Zimbabwe where her parents were missionaries. She attended the mission school there. Her mother was also a writer.

Unhappy with the harsh treatment of black Africans in Zimbabwe, Mem Fox left Zimbabwe when she was eighteen to attend drama school in England. She married Malcolm Fox, a teacher, in 1969 and has one daughter. After her marriage, she and her husband returned for a short time to Zimbabwe. They moved to Australia in 1970 where she was a teacher. She was also a storyteller, writing her first book Hush, the Invisible Mouse in 1983.

In reviewing her book, Possum Magic, Jill Breslan has described her as a storyteller whose books reflect Ms. Fox's work as a drama teacher and actor. Her picture books "feature Australian settings and characters and are noted for using rhythm, rhyme, and repetition to present young readers with such themes as the importance of memories and the power of love"

She is also a popular college professor. She has taught language arts courses for college students. She loves language. She and her fellow lecturers try to be creative in the use of language in their classes. She says, "Although we're deeply serious about teaching and learning, we're rarely serious in the act of teaching. We try to use language energetically to amuse and enthuse." She keeps a coffin in her office to show that language is fun!

She tries to avoid stereotyping either by sex or by race in her books. Why can't girls have adventures? Why can't boys cry? She remembers when her young cousin, a boy, gave up ballet lessons because his classmates made fun of him. She tries to avoid gender bias in her writing.She hated the racist attitudes she found in Zimbabwe against people of colour. She still finds racist attitudes in books written for children about Africans or Australia's aborigines. She says, "I hope that more often than not I do succeed in writing the literature of liberation: liberation from the tyranny of the attitudes and expectations that the world thrusts upon each of us."

Since 1983 and the publication of the international best-selling children’s classic Possum Magic (over two million copies sold), Mem has created many award-winning picture books. She has reserved a place in the hearts of all Australians with Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge; Hattie and the Fox; Sail Away; Shoes from Grandpa; Night Noises; Time for Bed; and the Christmas bestseller of 1995 and 1996, Wombat Divine.

In recognition of her outstanding contribution to children’s literature in Australia, Mem was awarded the 1990 Dromkeen Medal and in 1993 was awarded Membership of the Order of Australia (AM).


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