2013 New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards Finalist: The ACB with Honora Lee by Kate De Goldi

The ACB with Honora Lee is a finalist in the Junior Fiction category of the 2013 New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards.  I reviewed it in October last year,  so if you want to hear all about it and find out what makes it such a worthy finalist, read on.

Kate De Goldi’s last book, The 10PM Question, was a wonderful story and won many awards.  It’s a story that’s loved by adults and children alike, and Kate’s latest book, The ACB with Honora Lee, is bound to have the same crossover appeal.  I first heard about it when Kate talked about it at the Schools Programme for the Christchurch Writer’s Festival and I’ve been dying to read it ever since.  I immediately fell in love with Perry and the residents of Santa Lucia.

Perry’s mother and father are busy people … they’re impatient, they’re tired, they get cross easily. And they think that only children, like Perry, should be kept busy. On Saturday mornings Perry and her father visit her gran, Honora Lee, at the Santa Lucia rest home, but Gran never remembers them. ‘Who is that man?’ Honora Lee asks when Perry’s father leaves the room. After movement class is abruptly cancelled, Perry is allowed to go to Santa Lucia on Thursday afternoons. She discovers her Gran has an unconventional interest in the alphabet, so Perry decides to make an alphabet book with the help of Honora and the others. Soon everyone is interested in Perry’s book project.

The ACB with Honora Lee is a quirky story about an unusual girl who finds friendship in an unlikely place.  The story is brimming with humour, joy, wisdom, and a cast of colourful characters.  It’s set in the Beckenham loop in Christchurch (where I live) and I only wish that I could go and meet Perry, Honora Lee, Dorris and the rest of Kate De Goldi’s characters.  Perry is a unusual girl, who acts and sounds older than her 9 years.  She seems quite lonely when we first meet her.  Her parents are wrapped up in their own problems and don’t seem to have time for her.  They don’t take much notice of her and enroll her in after school activities that she doesn’t really enjoy.  Even when she really enjoys going to visit her gran and the others at the rest home, her parents don’t understand.  Perry makes lots of new friends at Santa Lucia, including her gran’s friend, Doris, and Stephen and Audrey who work there.  The fact that her gran doesn’t remember her doesn’t seem to worry Perry, she just reminds her who she is each time she visits.  The thing that I like the most about Perry is her love of words.  If she hears a word she doesn’t understand she has to find out what it means.

Perry’s gran, Honora Lee, is a real character.  She may not remember who the people around her are, but she remembers songs and lines of Shakespeare.  As one of the characters describes her, she’s ‘crabby as an old apple,’ but she comes out with some hilarious lines.  I especially like it when her and Perry are playing I Spy, because she always gets it around the wrong way.  Here’s a great example, ‘I spy with my little eye,’ said Gran,’something beginning with fat.’

It’s Kate De Goldi’s whole cast of wonderful characters that make The ACB with Honora Lee such an enjoyable read.  Their interactions provide some funny, embarrassing and touching moments.  It’s a story that will be enjoyed by the young and the young at heart and it will leave you with a smile on your face.

4 out of 5 stars

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Filed under authors, books, children, children's fiction, New Zealand

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