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The Hundred Penny Box by Sharon Bell Mathis
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The Hundred Penny Box (edition 2006)

by Sharon Bell Mathis, Leo Dillon (Illustrator), Diane Dillon (Illustrator)

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8221911,042 (3.62)15
Member:lorren.jackson
Title:The Hundred Penny Box
Authors:Sharon Bell Mathis
Other authors:Leo Dillon (Illustrator), Diane Dillon (Illustrator)
Info:Perfection Learning (2006), Hardcover, 47 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:***
Tags:Newbery Award, Aging

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The Hundred Penny Box by Sharon Bell Mathis

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A poignant story about a boy and his great aunt, and the power of memory, family, and loss and oppression. Three generations of African Americans are living under one roof after Michael's parents take in Aunt Dew, his father's aunt. Aunt Dew raised Michael's father after the tragic early death of his parents, and she is almost as much a mother as she is a grandmother to Michael. Now she is too infirm to care for herself, so the family has moved her to their house so Michael's mother can tend to Aunt Dew. Unfortunately, his mother and his aunt don't mix well. His mother doesn't understand Aunt Dew's sadness, her frustration at not being able to take care of herself, and thinks that Aunt Dew dislikes her. Most importantly, Michael's mother doesn't understand the hundred penny box.

Aunt Dew began her collection when her husband gave her thirty-one pennies on her birthday, to represent each year of her life. From then on, Aunt Dew's husband or she herself added one new penny to her box on each birthday, and as Michael pulls them from the box, she can recount the significant events connected to that year and that penny. The hundred penny box is the secret to Aunt Dew's very identity, but Michael's mom doesn't know that. She wants to get rid of the box and replace it with a new, smaller one. Michael can't bear letting that happen. He will do anything to save the box, even defy his parents and hide it.

The book doesn't give us resolution on the fate of the penny box. Rather, it ends with Michael comforting a tearful Aunt Dew in her room, after his mother forced her to take a nap. He lays his head on her chest and listens to her sing her favorite song. The ending shows that the importance of the book isn't about the box, after all, but the relationship between Michael and his aunt. The old traditions and history are thus passed across the generations, through Michael's devotion and his aunt's stories. For such a small story, it holds a great deal of complexity. Michael's mother is a good woman, and has some valid points about pulling Aunt Dew into the future, because she is clutching the past. Yet she doesn't really understand the old woman. Michael is just a child, and truly naive about the situation, but he possesses a wisdom his mother does not. The characters and their relationships realistically depict how our relations to others can be both messy and deeply affectionate. Subtle messages about oppression and how the world has changed for African Americans are reflected in Aunt Dew's personal history. This is an intimate story, that teaches children about the universal dynamics of family and a particular moment in our history. The book allows readers to come to their own conclusions about the fate of the penny box. The story is well worth reading and discussing. ( )
  nmhale | Nov 4, 2013 |
Summary:
This book is about a young boy named Michael who has an aunt who is 100 years old. She has a box filled with pennies one for each year she has been born. His mother wanted to get rid of the box but Michael knew how much the box meant to his aunt and he becomes caught in the middle between his mother and the family.

Personal Reaction:
I enjoyed this book because it symbolizes how important the box is to Micheal and his aunt. I thought this book was really heart warming and touching and I liked how the young boy and the aunt work together to save the box.

Classroom Extension:
1. In the classroom, the teacher could have their student's create their own box.
2. In the classroom, the teacher could have their student's talk about their feelings toward the story and create a literature circle. ( )
  lorren.jackson | Nov 20, 2012 |
Michael's great-aunt Dew is one hundred years old, and has a box in which she keeps pennies - one for every year of her life. Michael's mother wants to get rid of it, but Michael realizes the importance of the memories that make Aunt Dew the special woman she is.

This is more of a short story than a picture book. It is 47 pages long, and heavier on text than illustration. The illustrations are sepia-toned and quite striking; I kept thinking this sort of story would have been perfect during my early elementary years, that transition between books with pictures on every page and chapter books with almost none at all. Though it is short, this is a well-told story with characters that you really sympathize with. Even Michael's mother, Ruth, though she wants to discard the box, has taken her husband's aunt in and wants what is best for her, even if she and Michael (and Aunt Dew herself) don't agree on what "best" is. ( )
  bell7 | Nov 25, 2011 |
Mathis, S.B., Dillon, L, & Dillon, D. (1975). The hundred penny box. New York: The Viking Press.
Grades 3 through 5

Tensions have been running high at Michael’s home. Since his great-great-aunt came to live with the family, his mother has been upset. Aunt Dew raised John, Michael’s brother, when his parents died. Now, Aunt Dew needs someone to look after her; John moved her from Atlanta to live with the family. Ruth, Michael’s mother, is having a hard time adjusting to the change. Her relationship with Aunt Dew is difficult. The old woman is cold and distant toward Ruth, and Ruth infantilizes the old woman. Michael is caught in the middle. He is fascinated by Aunt Dew’s penny box, where the old woman has kept a penny for each year of her life. Each penny is a story, and whenever Aunt Dew is willing to share, Michael spends hours with her, attentively listening to each word she has to say. Ruth believes the box is nothing more than something old and useless; she plans on getting rid of it. Ruth does not know that the box is dear to Aunt Dew, who sees the box as her own self. Only Michael knows how much the old woman cherishes the box, and he does his best to protect it from his mother. Unable to convince his mother not to destroy the box, the boy consoles his great-great-aunt as she cries herself to sleep.

Winner of a Newbery Honor, The hundred penny box is a very real portrayal of the difficulties that arise when different generations must share the same roof. Aunt Dew mourns leaving her home and her life, and she resents Ruth for treating her like a child. Ruth does her best to make sure that the old woman is well taken care of, but she takes away her independence and choice. Michael is caught in the middle, the only one if the family who truly knows how Aunt Dew feels. The box is a symbol of Aunt Dew’s life and a repository of her memories. Like the old woman, the box is old and weathered. From the outside, it looks useless, but inside it keeps the essence of what makes the old woman who she is. Some may consider the story too dark and depressing, but a closer look will uncover a beautiful story of generations coming together through the power of storytelling. The characters are realistic and compelling despite their flaws. The illustrations in coppery tones help develop the mood of the story—dark as well as dreamy, as with something worn out by age. The book shows readers that memories help make us who we are, and if we lose them, we lose our identity. This is a great book to spark discussions about family, aging, generation clashes, and tolerance. ( )
  fonsecaelib530A | Nov 25, 2011 |
Mathis, Sharon Bell. The Hundred Penny Box. New York: Scholatic Inc., 1975. This story is about an Afican American family that has taken in their 100 year old grand aunt to live with them. I thought this story was precious. Her great-great nephew is fascinated with a collection of 100 pennies that she has in an old beat up box. His mother, who is the aunt's caretaker, is determined to get rid of the box but the little boy enjoys listening to his aunt's "penny stories." He knows that the pennies are tied to his aunt's life memories and tries to stop his mother from throwing them out. The boy learns to treasure his aunt's pennies and as aresult he begins to treasure his aunt. This story deals with the challenges of caring for the elderly in the family and the treasures of sharing intheir memories. Age group: 7-10 years. ( )
  zeebreez | Nov 13, 2011 |
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Epigraph
Dedication
In memory of my maternal grandparents: RICHARD FRAZIER, SR.--great Black patriarch and the woman he loved--his wife, MARY FRAZIER. This book is also for my brother: JOHN W. BELL
First words
Michael sat down on the bed that used to be his and watched his great-great- aunt, Aunt Dew, rocking in the rocking chair.
Quotations
"Leave my hundred penny box right alone. Anybody takes my hundred penny box takes me!"
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 014240702X, Paperback)

Michael loves his great-great-aunt Dew, even if she can't always remember his name. He especially loves to spend time with her and her beloved hundred penny box, listening to stories about each of the hundred years of her life. Michael's mother wants to throw out the battered old box that holds the pennies, but Michael understands that the box itself is as important to Aunt Dew as the memories it contains. Winner of a Newbery Honor, this beautiful story will be available in a collector's edition featuring heavy interior stock embossing and silver ink on the cover, and a thread-sewn binding for added durability. A timeless story of the relationship between a boy and his elderly relative, this new edition is one that families young and old will treasure for years to come.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:44:49 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Michael's love for his great-great-aunt who lives with them leads him to intercede with his mother, who wants to toss out all her old things.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 2 descriptions

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