When the news about Bruce Willis’ aphasia condition first came out, my family and friends will attest to the fact that I was devastated – given that I freely admit, and have done for years, that he is my ‘Oh yeahhhhhh’ guy and always has been. But more than that, I was so terribly sorry that someone who has made his living with speaking/acting would be faced with such a loss. Now, with recent news we understand that his condition is frontal temporal dementia.
This has been a catalyst not only for this progressive disease to become wider known but for sharing to the general public that dementia is not just an ‘old people’ disease. When you get to my age, sadly you are well acquainted with the terrible-ness of dementia, with perhaps parents, older relatives and now even friends, but not so many people are aware that dementia is not confined to younger people. I know someone who, over a decade ago, was in her early 40s when she was diagnosed but, in general, it has not been so commonly known.
I’ve also been aware for some time that Michelle Worthington was diagnosed in 2021.In fact, when I heard the latest revelations about Bruce’s diagnosis, I thought – oh same as Michelle 😦 … [plus three other friends]. Since that time, her own mission became to share more information and understanding around this condition in younger people. And Michelle is one of our own – that is, she’s a Brisbane creator, whom I have met and admired for a long time. I know how immensely talented she is, and how passionate she is about sharing a love of reading and writing, encouraging learning and education, and working towards ensuring that all young people have the power to make changes in their lives.
Essentially this is a simple story. Mama is not keen on chickens but accepts them into her family life, and, of course, grows to love them. As time goes on, she doesn’t always remember the chookies’ names, or sometimes she gets cross with them but each knows the other is still there, and still loving, and will always do their best in caring.
It is a story of acceptance of disability in the sure knowledge that even when a loved one can’t always respond in the way we expect or are used to, we know they still love us and we love them.
Michelle is a remarkable woman whose example to us all is, that while misfortune comes upon many of us, it is our choice whether to crumble beneath it or rise above it. I have long had admiration for her talent and creativity as an award-winning author. Now I have the utmost regard for her as a strong, resilient woman who does her best to share valuable insight to others. It takes a special kind of courage to put aside your own feelings for the good of others. How fortunate are we to have one such in our local area who will do her best to share information, understanding and empathy with her young audience.
Of course, as with any picture book the illustrator’s sensitive interpretation of the content adds volumes and Nicky Johnston has done just that. Look for yourself at the clever juxtaposition of chooks/children as the story progresses and the gentle grace of the characters.
Michelle Worthington – you are one in a million.
Highly recommended for your readers – and discussions- from around Prep upwards.