Bedtime Story by Chloe Hooper
When Chloe Hooper’s partner, Don Watson, is diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, she turns to children’s literature to find a way to communicate to their two young sons the likelihood of their father’s imminent death. The book is addressed to their elder son, and she knows she must ‘find a way to talk with [him] about the shadows’.
Hooper finds that her quest in of itself helps her to cope with the fear of losing her partner. Applying her research skills is like a soothing balm. She discovers that many authors of children’s books faced the loss of a parent at a young age, and this early grief informs their writing.
There are a couple of moments in this memoir that felt out of place; where Hooper digresses to subjects she obviously feels passionate about. One example is suggesting that May Gibbs’ Banksia Men are ‘racist caricatures of Aborigines transposed onto banksia flowers, who constantly try to steal white, eucalyptus-nut children’. I totally agree with her in regard to our nations blindness to ‘the violence of the frontier’, but I think this is a bit of an over-reach!
Anna Walker’s monochrome watercolour wash illustrations support the text perfectly. Bedtime Story is a beautiful exploration of grief and familial love.