The Hundred Penny Box - Sharon Bell Mathis (1975)

ISBN 10 : 01424 0702X
ISBN 13 : 978 01424 07028
(2006 Puffin Books Edition)

             Newbery Honor - 1976

A Hundred Year Memory

       What could be a hundred years of life like? Is it burdened with pains of past, or flashes with delightful memories? Or does it dangle between the array of emotions? Maybe, this book can tell you that.

       Dewbet Thomas, the great-great-aunt of Michael John Jefferson, is one hundred years old. She cherishes an old wooden box, as dear as her life, where she collects a penny for every year of her life. As she moves to Michael's house, Michael grows attached to her and the box. His favorite time is counting the pennies from the box and hearing the past stories from Aunt Dew, as her memory relapses to past.

       Michael would protect the box with all his heart and would stand up to his mother, who is trying to destroy the box. Why is she trying to destroy the box? What are the stories that fill the hundred year life and the penny box of Aunt Dewbet Thomas?

       Illustrated By : Leo & Diane Dillon
       Published By : Viking Children's Books

       Number of Pages : 48 

       Classification : Emotional , Relations

       Age : Grades 1 and above

My Comment :
            On the first look, this book just travels through a day in the life of a hundred year old. But, as the story line moves back and forth in time, the author (Sharon Bell Mathis) spreads it out into a vast canvas of various emotions and relationships between each characters. While the childish sweet love between Michael and his great-great-aunt is lovely, the relation between the two women (Michael's mom and Aunt Dew) in the story is intricate. The bitter sweet love, they exhibit for each other is fabricated well into the story.

             I read this book to my second grader, in the hope of him, getting some insights about old age. (He usually asks me whether he would be living up to hundred years or above. It is a great coincidence that I read this book about a hundred year old women). I cannot say he understands this book in its entirety, as the emotions of this book are multilayered and a bit high for his age. But, he can follow the story, as it moves in time, back and forth.

            About the illustrations, I cannot just say that the illustrations in this book are beautiful. The sepia toned pictures almost add an entire dimension and depth, to this book. When the illustrators of the book are being Caldecott winners, Leo and Diane Dillon, this magic can happen, for sure. (They won Caldecott Medals, for the books, "Why Mosquitoes Buzz In People's Ears?"  and "Ashanti To Zulu : African Traditions").  
            It could be anything like old age, family or stories passed on over generations, that you want to talk to your kid. And, this book can take you there, as the great-great-aunt passes her stories to Michael.

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  1. It sounds like a delightful book! Just the idea of having a box for 100 years collecting pennies for each year and remembering stories is captivating. Hi, I'm visiting from #LMMLinkup!

    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. This Newbery Honor is sure a wonderful book.

  2. Sounds like a wonderful book! My son has been asking that question of whether he'll live to be 100 (or whether I'll live to be 100) a lot recently too. Thanks for the review!

    1. Wow! Looks like kids develop understanding towards life and death at some age. That's why their thought of line goes to the life longevity. Long live!!!


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