Monday, November 24, 2008

The Hundred Penny Box by Sharon Bell Mathis

The Hundred Penny Box is a children's story by Sharon Bell Mathis, which was published in 1974 and a Newbery Honor winner in 1976.

The hundred penny box belongs to Michael's great-great-aunt Dew. The rickety old box contains 100 pennies, one for each year in which Aunt Dew has lived, from 1874 to 1974. Michael loves to play with the pennies, counting them back into the box while Aunt Dew tells stories of specific years and what happened at that time to her and her family. Unfortunately Michael's mother doesn't understand the value of the rickety old box and decides to throw the box out (but save the pennies). Michael is alarmed and starts to plan a hiding place for the box.

The Hundred Penny Box is a touching story about multi-generations in a family and the small treasures in life. I loved the concept of this story, not just the fact that Aunt Dew has a penny and a story for every year of her long life, but also the sharing of stories between generations. It reminded me a little of the stories my grandmother used to tell of her childhood. There is so much you can learn from the older generations, be they parents, grandparents, or even great-great-aunts. Although this story is nearly 35 years old the lessons of it are as true today as they were in 1974.

At 47 pages (including illustrations), The Hundred Penny Box is a great read-aloud for children, but can be enjoyed by an adult looking for a very short-sentimental read. (It took me all of 15 minutes to read.) One should note, if you plan to read it aloud to a child, that there may be the need for discussion about the attitudes and different perspectives of the characters within the story.

I was able to find very little about the author, Sharon Bell Mathis. But it appears that she wrote most of her books in the 1970s and early 1980s. She was quoted once as saying, "I write to salute the strength in Black children and to say to them, 'Stay strong, stay Black and stay alive'..." One way she kept Black history alive in her books was to include excerpts of poems or songs written by African-Americans in her stories. Precious Lord, Take My Hand, a gospel song penned by Tommy Dorsey is quoted throughout The Hundred Penny Box.

On a scale of 1-5, one being horrible and five being excellent, I would rate this book a 3.5. I liked it, it was an interesting and unique read.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for stopping by our blog. This book sounds very interesting. I've never seen it, but very much agree that passing stories down to younger generations is very valuable! Thanks again!

Christine said...

I'm always looking for multigenerational stories, real or fictional, to share with my children and the students in my religious ed. classes. This looks like a good one.