I am beyond excited to be kicking off the blog tour for The Forgettery by Rachel Ip and Laura Hughes, as well as sharing a fascinating interview with the author. This exquisite picture book is one of my top picks for 2021!
I knew from the title page I was going to love this book. The story has already started, as we see Granny helping Amelia put on her coat. They’re getting ready to go out for a walk in the forest, and have no idea what magical adventure awaits them.
The first page sets the tone of this book. Laura has painted an idyllic scene and we instantly connect with Amelia and Granny, who we discover are both forgetful. And one day, they forget to go home and they stumble across a magical place.
Laura’s illustration of The Forgettery blew me away. My daughter gasped, “WOW!” as she spotted all the little windows in the tree. “Quick, turn the page, Mummy,” she cried.
Well, I turned the page and we BOTH gasped! You could spend an hour looking at Laura’s illustration of The Forgettery and still notice a new little detail or gem of humour, from a box of lost glasses to a sign, Warning: Memories Delivered Out of the Blue.
For those who believe, The Forgettery is a place where anyone can find everything they’ve ever forgotten. Let me tell you, Laura and Rachel have made me a believer and I want to visit! Everyone has their own room. And this is when the story really begins to tug on your heartstrings.
Granny’s room at The Forgettery is huge, she has forgotten lots of things. Little things like where she left her glasses, but also big things, like people and the way home. Rachel and Laura’s characterisation of Granny through the depiction of these memories is joyful, playful and tear-jerking.
After gathering Granny’s favourite memories, Amelia spots a signpost with her name on it. Again, Laura’s illustrations delighted us, as we see Granny and Amelia climbing up to a tiny treehouse room.
Inside are all of Amelia’s forgotten memories. Just as quickly as Rachel and Laura brought a tear to my eye in Granny’s Forgettery, they had me laughing out loud at Amelia’s room when she discovers a box of forgotten “please and thank yous”!
Rachel has explored memory loss with such a gentle touch, that while The Forgettery could be read to a child who has a family member living with dementia, it is not “a picture book about dementia”. The Forgettery is a magical adventure by a little girl and her granny. It is a picture book about life and love and the relationship each and every one of us has with our memories. We all forget things, from being a baby to where we put our keys or the time – the list could go on! After sharing this magical adventure with her grandmother, Amelia figures out how to cherish memories with Granny.
The Forgettery is all about the beauty of memories and the memory of this book will stay with you long after you finish reading it. Laura’s illustrations are out of this world – they make The Forgettery feel like a real place you can visit in the forest. I wish I could step inside this book and visit The Forgettery! This breath-taking picture book made me laugh, cry and tingle all over. It is one of the best picture books I’ve ever read!
I couldn’t wait to interview Rachel and find out more about The Forgettery…
Hi Rachel, thank you so much for letting me interview you. First, can you tell us a little bit about the book and the inspiration behind it?
Thank you for having me, I’m so happy to be here!
My daughter once asked me: “Where do all the forgotten things go?” And that was the seed for The Forgettery. Where do all the forgotten things go? What if we all had a library of forgotten memories we could dive into and explore?
I think we can all relate to forgetfulness. Children are forgetful. They’re busy living life in the moment. Adults are also forgetful – we forget our keys and our glasses. We forget names and faces. We’ve all felt that rush of nostalgia when a song on the radio takes us back 10 years, 20 years in a matter of moments.
These are light-hearted moments, some of which are captured in the story. But memory can also bring up deeper themes of memory loss and dementia, which are very real issues for many families in the UK and globally. For some families, I hope stories like The Forgettery can be a small bridge to discuss these big topics with young children at home.
The question I really wanted to ask you was, what would be in your Forgettery – but then I realised you’ve forgotten! So instead, I’ll ask you about Granny and Amelia’s. I loved how we get to know Granny and Amelia through the memories in their Forgetteries. You’ve added a splash of humour into the story through the things Amelia has forgotten. How did you decide what to include in their Forgetteries?
I re-wrote these pages so many times because it was so hard to choose!
For Granny, I wanted to include memories of special places and experiences, but also sounds and scents in the text. When I was writing the story, I read lots of research showing how music, sounds and scent can evoke very strong memories for people living with dementia.
Laura’s illustrations add so much more depth to the story – in Granny’s Forgettery, Laura said she included some iconic shoes and outfits from the 1960’s and 1970’s and I’ve loved finding them all, it’s such a beautiful spread in the book.
Amelia’s Forgettery is more playful. When they were younger, my girls could never remember which way round their shoes went! Children have so many bumps and grazes – as adults, we comfort them with a quick cuddle and hope those moments are quickly forgotten!
I think my Forgettery would be full of song lyrics, long division and all my times tables! I’m always forgetting where I put my glasses and my keys, so those would definitely be in there too…
Laura’s illustrations are incredible, do you have a favourite spread?
They’re really stunning – it’s so hard to pick just one. One of my favourite moments is Granny entering her Forgettery and seeing all her memories fluttering around her. There’s so much to explore in the illustrations. I also love the endpapers, especially when Granny and Amelia cartwheel into the sunset.
Laura said she was inspired by banyan trees when she drew the Forgettery tree. We have lots of them here in Hong Kong and they’re really revered. I was so excited to see the magical way she’d drawn the tree in the story.
What is your fondest childhood memory of books? Did you always want to be an author?
I loved that feeling of getting completely lost in a story, so a favourite memory of mine is reading under the covers, way past my bedtime.
I always wanted to be an author, but I’m not sure I had a concept that it was an option as a child. That’s why I think author and illustrator visits are so important – so students can see creative writing, art and illustration in action, as possible careers they might consider.
I have a really strong memory of a secondary school writing project. We wrote and illustrated stories and went back to our primary school to read the stories to students. I loved the whole process and still have my story, which was about an adventurous mole called Eddy.
It was only when I started reading hundreds of picture books to my girls that I started writing my own stories again.
Can you tell us about Bring Me A Book Hong Kong and your involvement with them?
I’m on the board of a local literacy NGO – Bring Me a Book Hong Kong. Although literacy levels in Hong Kong are high, reading for pleasure is incredibly low. We work with schools to deliver trainings for parents and educators, promoting reading for pleasure.
We provide libraries and quality books in English and Chinese to local schools and community centres. We also have a wonderful programme, bringing authors, illustrators and literacy experts to Hong Kong (or virtually, in the current situation) to share their love of stories and reading with local students.
We were lucky to host Lauren Child and Petr Horácek in 2019, and have had many virtual visits during 2021, including Jarvis, Eric Litwin and authors from Taiwan, Hong Kong and China. We can’t wait to invite more people in person when travel becomes safe to do so.
What’s next for you, in terms of writing?
I feel incredibly lucky to have worked with the Farshore team and Laura Hughes on The Forgettery, so I’m enjoying this moment right now.
The Last Garden, illustrated by Anneli Bray and published by Hodder & Stoughton will be available in paperback in April.
I’m working on a few story ideas at the moment, full of hope, friendship and curiosity. I hope they find a home and are brought to life as beautifully as The Forgettery.
What advice would you give to someone trying to publish a picture book?
I’m still very new to it all, but I’d recommend reading lots of books in the genre you’re writing or illustrating to get a feel for the structure and pacing.
For me, joining SCBWI (Society of Children’s Writers & Illustrators) and finding a supportive group of writers has been amazing. Joining a critique group and sharing my writing has been a huge learning curve, and an incredible support along the way.
Thank you for letting me interview you, Rachel, it has been fascinating!
Thank you so much for all your thoughtful questions!
The Forgettery is published by Farshore Books (formerly Egmont Books), 18 March 2021
About the author:
Rachel Ip has always loved language and literature. After studying modern languages and linguistics at Cambridge University, Rachel worked in marketing communications for over 10 years. She was born in the UK and has lived in France, the Netherlands and now lives in Hong Kong. The Forgettery will be her debut picture book. You can find Rachel via her website or on Twitter and Instagram.
About the illustrator:
Laura Hughes studied illustration at Kingston University and is the Oscar’s Book Prize 2018 winner behind There’s a Pig up my Nose. Laura is also the illustrator and artist behind Daddy’s Sandwich, nominated for the Kate Greenaway Medal 2016. She lives in east London. You can find Laura via her website or on Twitter and Instagram.
Over 850,000 people live with dementia in the UK, which will soar to 2 million by2051. Globally, around 50 million people live with dementia, with nearly 10 millionnew cases each year. Dementia has now overtaken cancer and heart disease as theleading cause of death in the UK.
You may also like:
A Doll for Grandma by Paulette Bochnig Sharkey & Samantha Woo
A poignant story the offers a way to start a conversation with children who are experiencing a loved one developing memory loss.
How Do You Make a Rainbow? by Caroline Crowe and Cally Johnson-Isaacs
An uplifting picture book that has a section at the back for children to create a rainbow journal of things they love to do.
The Bear and the Piano Trilogy by David Litchfield
Laura’s illustrations reminded me of David’s. This beautiful trilogy also touches on the power of creating and cherishing memories.
Look out for the other stops on the tour!
I am very grateful to the publisher for providing me with a complimentary copy of this book. This voluntary review contains my honest opinion.