1976 Honor: The Hundred Penny Box (A Life in Change)

VERDICT: Treasure

Laurinda’s Rating: 4/5

The Hundred Penny Box, by Sharon Bell Mathis tells the story of Michael, a young child, and his Aunt Dew. The venerable Aunt Dew is a hundred years old and has recently moved in with Michael’s parents. She tells wonderful stories about Reconstruction and other momentous historical events. However, Michael’s mother frequently clashes with Aunt Dew. Michael cherishes Aunt Dew; he helps keep her hundred penny box from destruction and prompts her for stories. He is sweet and patient with her even when she calls him by his father’s name.

My summary really doesn’t capture the book. So much of it is in tone; along with the corresponding images, they tell the tender story of a strong, venerable black woman who survived a whole lot and wants to share that with others. While are there some hints that she has Alzheimer’s/memory loss, her relationship with Michael is strong.

I highly recommend this, particularly for early elementary school students. While they may need some help reading it, the story will (hopefully) resonate and help them be more thoughtful in their own interactions with the elderly. Even as a grown-up, I found this an incredibly touching, poignant story that captures multiple perspectives while honoring the primary narrators. It explores Michael’s mother’s frustrations at Aunt Dew moving in as well as Aunt Dew’s struggle to maintain a sense of self and independence after she has moved.

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