Hardcover, 120 pages
Published October 2012 by Longacre Press
Dear Readers, meet my favourite book of 2014 so far. This non-assuming book that gives no indication that it contains such a magnificent story took me completely by surprise. In a good way. I expected something good, something funny and witty, something that would make me happy but nothing that would linger with me, nothing that would make me crow with delight and announce to all and sundry that this is what good books are about. This little novel transcends its genre limitations and, in my opinion, carves itself a place as a well-loved, long-loved story.
And the way it does this is deceptively simple.
Over at The Book Wars, we’ve been discussing picturebooks in earnest, particularly, the duality it offers to readers. By duality, I mean, it speaks to both adult reader and the child reader. The ACB of Honora Lee accomplishes this feat quite easily.
As an adult reading children’s literature, there are times when I read something in a book that the younger reader probably will not catch or understand. In Honora Lee, I believe that the main character is autistic though this is never said explicitly. There are little mannerisms, little hints of it in Perry’s interaction with the world and some things that Perry’s parents say that give it away. Speaking of Petty’s parents, they are typical overworked parents who have very little time for the daughter they love.
The titular Honora Lee is Perry’s grandmother who, to the bafflement of Perry’s parents, holds great appeal to the nine year old. Perry is determined to spend more than the allocated time with her grandmother and this chance comes along when Perry’s Thursday extracurricular program falls through. Honora Lee is quite old and possibly suffering from Alzheimers, I think, which has her forgetting Perry daily. She lives in a nursing home and that is where Perry finds herself on Thursday afternoons.
The patients in the nursing home, the caretakers of the patients, nurses etc., Perry’s grandmother and Perry herself are such amazing characters. Honora Lee is unlike any grandmother I have met in a fictional setting. I find it so admirable that Goldi is able to express the complexity of Honora’s character using just the interactions between Perry and Honora, and Honora and the other inmates of the nursing home.
The novel, though slight, deals with some really heavy stuff, death being one of them. There is also a really beautiful moment when Perry observes without any intent how her father and his mother, Honora, have a similar mannerism. This stops Perry’s father short and though the child reader probably will not read too much into that, I thought it was a poignant way to show him finding a part of his mother in himself. He doesn’t really understand Honora’s peculiarities and she doesn’t seem to pay him any mind.
Perry’s mission to create an alphabet or rather create a book of the ABC with the letters of people or things she knows, for example, H is for Honora. The whole project is beautifully executed and I only wish it was included with the book so we could see the finished copy of it.
The book itself is really beautifully made, the pages are quality and the illustrations pleasing. I recommend this novel heartily – whether for yourself or for the child in your life. Get it, read it and let it make you happy.