Mem Fox: Biography & Books

Instructor: Krista Langlois

Krista has taught language arts for 14 years. She has a master's degree in teaching and loves researching, reading, and introducing others to the wonders of literature and language.

Australia's highly regarded picture book author, Mem Fox, is a highly accomplished author for both children and adults. This lesson gives a brief biography and lists her most popular books.

Mem Fox Biography

Mem Fox is one of a kind! From writing children's books about magical possums to participating in a tireless march around the world to promote literacy, Fox is still going strong at over 70 years of age. Fox creates stories for kids that inspire, uplift, and teach important messages about love, friendship, acceptance, and joy.

Her Life

Mem Fox was born in Melbourne, Australia in 1946. Her missionary parents moved her from Australia to Zimbabwe when she was 6 months old. Fox's adopted an African accent and she attended school for a short while as the only white kid in class. Upon hearing that she was in school with all black children, the authorities informed her parents that this arrangement was, in fact, against the law. She was moved to an all white school and became miserable for a year or so until she finally made some friends.

Mem Reads Out Loud
Mem fox, Mem reads out loud, reading

Even so, she describes her childhood as idyllic. She realized young that people were kind, horrible, or good, regardless of color. Now, she has a deep desire to help the world see how similar it is instead of how different. Fox feels that looking at our differences is an awful way to live. Her books reflect her spirit of inclusion.

Academia

It would be passing strange if Fox had not grown up to be an academic. Both her mother and grandmother were college graduates, and her father was also a teacher. Fox's parents surrounded her with Dickens, Shakespeare, the great poets, and all the major classics of the world. According to Fox, the first story she wrote at age 10 was about soil erosion. Her mom took one look at her book, proclaimed it wonderful, and Fox forever believed she could be a writer.

Although she loved to write, she also loved drama. Participating in all her high school plays, she decided that she wanted to go to drama school. Her father, being a practical man, didn't want his daughter going into acting and perhaps wind up without a career. He found a school that offered a drama program but required a teaching certificate to graduate.

Fox would go on to explain that her work in drama is what made her writing so lyrical and rhythmic. No matter how great your story or your characters may be, you're lost without rhythm. It was in drama school she met Malcolm Fox, whom she married in 1969. They returned to Fox's home in Australia and have been there since.

Australia, home of Mem Fox
Australia, Mem

After drama school, Fox would spend the next 25 or so years teaching as an Associate Professor of Education at Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia. During this time, she earned a BA in Children's Literature and wrote Possum Magic.

Books for Children

Fox's first book, Possum Magic, has sold over four million copies and is still the best-selling children's book in Australia. Her picture book Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes was on the New York Times bestseller list for 18 weeks in 2008-2009. She wrote the book after a book signing surrounded by a diverse group of people and their babies. Without being sentimental, the book subtly teaches that we are all the same. Fox would later explain she wrote the book in a dream state on her way home from her book signing.

Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes
Little Fingers, little toes

Her books have been translated into 19 languages. She has written more than 40 children's books. Here is a selection:

  • Baby Bedtime 2013
  • Yoo hoo, Ladybird! 2013
  • Tell me About Your Day Today 2012
  • Goodnight, Sleep Tight completely new edition 2012
  • Two Little Monkeys 2012
  • The Little Dragon 2011
  • Let's Count Goats! 2010
  • A Giraffe in the Bath 2010
  • Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes 2008
  • The Magic Hat 2002
  • Time for Bed 1993
  • Feathers and Fools 1989
  • Koala Lou 1988
  • Hattie and the Fox 1986
  • Possum Magic 1983

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