Mem Fox

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Merrion Frances Fox
Fox speaking to audience in 2014
Fox speaking to audience in 2014
BornMerrion Frances Partridge
(1946-03-05) March 5, 1946 (age 76)
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Pen name"Mem" Fox
Notable awardsNan Chauncy Award, 2017

Merrion Frances "Mem" Fox, AM (born Merrion Frances Partridge; 5 March 1946) is an Australian writer of children's books and an educationalist specialising in literacy. Fox has been semi-retired since 1996, but still gives seminars and lives in Adelaide, South Australia.[1]


In 1981, while working in drama, Fox decided to retrain in literacy studies. She said: "Literacy has become the great focus of my life – it's my passion, my battle and my mission and my exhaustion."[1] She has published books on literacy aimed at children, their parents, teachers and educators. She held the position of Associate Professor, Literacy Studies, in the School of Education at Flinders University until her retirement in 1996.[1] Since her retirement from teaching, Fox travels around the world visiting many countries and doing presentations and speaking on children's books and literacy issues.[1] Following an interrogation by US immigration officials on a trip in February 2017 to deliver a keynote speech in Milwaukee, Fox said that she would probably never visit the US again.[2]

Possum Magic[edit]

Fox wrote her first draft for Possum Magic in 1978 during a course in children's literature at Flinders University. Nine publishers rejected the draft over a five-year period. When it was accepted by Omnibus Books in Adelaide they asked Fox to reduce the 4½ page book, then entitled Hush the Invisible Mouse, by two-thirds and to change the mice to Australian animals to place emphasis on her Australian theme. Possum Magic is now one of the most recognised picture books in Australia and has sold over 3 million copies worldwide.[3]

The two main characters in Possum Magic are Grandma Poss and Hush. Hush has been made invisible by her Grandma to protect her from the dangers of the Australian bush. The story details the duo's adventures as they tour Australia searching for the secret to Hush's visibility. It is a rhythmical story of Australia's varied landscapes and the animals that live in them.

Guess What?[edit]

The book Guess What? ranks number 66 on the American list of the 100 most challenged books 1990 to 2000.[4] Groups and agencies can challenge a book to prevent it from being available to be read by the general public.

Personal life[edit]

Fox was born Merrion Frances Partridge in Melbourne, Australia, but grew up in Southern Rhodesia.[1] Her parents were missionaries and she attended Hope Fountain mission school, near Bulawayo. When she was eighteen, she went to England where she was accepted into an English Drama school.[1]

In 1969, she married Malcolm Fox, a teacher.[1] The following year they returned to Australia and in 1971 she gave birth to her only child Chloë Fox,[5] a former ALP member of the South Australian Parliament.

She dislikes her given name, and adopted the shortened form "Mem" at around the age of 13. She has never taken the step of legally changing her name, and so remains "Merrion" for official purposes.[6]

Awards and recognition[edit]


Children's books[edit]


  • Thereby Hangs a Tale (1980)
  • How to Teach Drama to Infants Without Really Crying (Australian title) (1984) (Teaching Drama to Young Children (USA title) (1987))
  • Mem's the Word (1990 – Australian title) (Dear Mem Fox (1992 – USA title)
  • English essentials : the wouldn't-be-without-it guide to writing well (1993) with Lyn Wilkinson
  • Memories : an autobiography (1992)
  • Radical reflections : passionate opinions on teaching, learning, and living (1993)
  • Reading Magic: How Your Child Can Learn to Read Before School - and Other Read-aloud Miracles (2001)
  • English essentials : the wouldn't-be-without-it guide to writing well (revised 2009) with Lyn Wilkinson


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Life Story". Mem Fox website. Archived from the original on 2 March 2008. Retrieved 7 March 2008.
  2. ^ "An Australian Children's-Book Author'S U.S. Customs Ordeal" by Cynthia Zarin, The New Yorker, 27 February 2017
  3. ^ Benns, Matthew (24 April 2005). "Brown's secret society set to crack million members". The Sun-Herald. Retrieved 25 February 2017.
  4. ^ "The 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990–2000". American Library Association. Archived from the original on 18 February 2008. Retrieved 7 March 2008.
  5. ^ Sharron L. McElmeel (1992). Bookpeople: A Multicultural Album. Teacher Ideas Press. p. 55. ISBN 0-87287-953-4.
  6. ^ Interview by Maria Zijlstra (22 August 2009). "The power of names". Lingua Franca. Radio National.
  7. ^ "Dromkeen Medal". Scholastic. Archived from the original on 3 July 2007. Retrieved 15 July 2007.
  8. ^ "Its and Honour – 26 January 1993". Australian Government. Retrieved 7 March 2008.
  9. ^ "It's an Honour – 1 January 2001". Australian Government. Retrieved 7 March 2008.
  10. ^ Hartgerink, Nick. "Honoris Causa: for the sake of honour". University of Wollongong. Retrieved 19 May 2018.
  11. ^ "Honorary degree recipients for Doctor of Letters (DLitt)". Flinders University. 2004. Retrieved 19 May 2018. Merrion (Mem) Frances Fox, AM, DipT, BA, BEd, Grad Dip, DLitt (Hon) Woll, DLitt 2004
  12. ^ Ducks Away!. OCLC. OCLC 945969497.

External links[edit]