Sunday, February 21, 2016

The ACB with Honora Lee by Kate DeGoldi illustrated by Gregory O'Brien

This is a fascinating book because I am not sure who The ACB with Honora Lee will appeal too.  I enjoyed it as an adult but I think only a very sensitive upper Primary reader will appreciate this gentle story.  I hope to put this book into the hands of a reader this term and we will see their reaction.

If you have read Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge then this book might extend your discussion of this important issue with an older child.  I also recommend Penny Pollard's Diary which explores the theme of visiting older residents in a care facility.  You could also read Heartbeat by Sharon Creech, Pearl verses the world by Sally Murphy and Don't Breathe a word by Marianne Musgrove.  For a different picture book on this theme try Newspaper Hats by Phil Cummings.  I also recommend you take a dip into the Silk family books which have a similar feeling of community to the one Perry creates within the nursing home where her grandmother Honora Lee resides.

Perry is a very special girl.  She is the only child of busy parents who have quite rigid ideas about child rearing.  Every day (except Friday) Perry is sent to an after school activity.  Most of these are actually torture for Perry who has an inquiring mind but no aptitude for music (piano Monday, clarinet Wednesday) or movement (Thursday).  She "found it almost impossible to read the music and count and make her hands do different things at more or less the same time."

Luckily she does like writing (Tuesday with Haruka Holme) and she is reward with origami animals "fashioned from washi paper which was delicate and beautifully patterned."

One weekend Perry and her dad visit her grandmother, Honora Lee, in a nursing home.  When Perry's Thursday movement class is cancelled Perry makes the perfect suggestion.  She will visit her grandmother each Thursday. The parents agree (thank goodness).  Each week Perry walks to Santa Lucia with her babysitter Nina and Nina's son Claude.  They take a container of home baking and it is through the sharing of these treats each week that Perry comes to know some of the other residents. Honora herself is a mystery but every now and then she makes a pithy comment or quotes a classic text and gradually a special relationship between Perry and Honora grows.

"See how the fates their gifts allot" The Mikado Gilbert and Sullivan
"Oh for a muse of fire that would ascend"  Henry V Shakespeare.

Perry decides to make a gift for Honora Lee - an ABC book.  As with all plans this one will need some modification along the way.  Trying to be systematic and work through from A to Z is impossible and so the book becomes the ACB as Perry jumps around the alphabet filling her book with words, concepts, people, thoughts and emotions that she hopes her precious grandmother will appreciate. Perry herself is a beautiful character.  Wise beyond her years, patient and persistent.

Here is a little sample of this writing - Perry recites the alphabet.

"Eh Bee See Dee Eee Eff Gee .. Cue Are Ess Tee You Vee"

One of the most interesting aspects of this book are the illustrations.  I cannot think of any books with a similar style.  Take a look at a video about the illustrator Gregory O'Brien.  If you are reading this blog from New Zealand you might be able to see the stage adaption of this book.  You can read about the author Kate De Goldi here.  Here is an interview with a bookseller who will give you some more details about this very special book.

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