THE ACB WITH HONORA LEE
Kate De Goldi
As busy adults, it is often easy for us to organise our
children's lives to suit our own ends, and in the process
stifle their opportunity to discover things about and for
The ACB with Honora Lee by New Zealand author Kate De
Goldi is a gentle reminder of what they can achieve when left
to their own devices.
Perry is what could be described as a ''problem child'' -
curious, precocious, inattentive and easily bored (the kinds
of behaviours that can see bright kids labelled ADHD).
Her parents, both overworked professionals, decide the
solution is to ensure her out-of-school time is filled with
other people and educational activities; music and movement
lessons, clarinet, piano, homework group.
Perry doesn't find any of these particularly interesting, and
when her movement group is cancelled she decides that it is
her turn to choose what to do. This turns out to be weekly
visits to her grandmother, Honora Lee, at the nearby Santa
Although Honora is unable to remember her from visit to
visit, when her granddaughter asks ''Gran? Who am I?''
she receives the tart reply: ''If you don't know, I can't
She retains a sharp intellect and still acts like the teacher
she once was, so Perry decides to involve her in an
educational project - an ABC based on the rest-home and its
residents. Over the next few months, the book grows in a
haphazard fashion depending on which letter Honora decides to
respond to on the day, with additional contributions from
everybody who lives and works at Santa Lucia.
In the process, Perry finds new friends, learns about life
and death and finally manages to apply herself to something
for an extended period of time.
Although this is probably aimed at a younger audience, it is
also a great read for adults. De Goldi has a real talent for
capturing the perspective and behaviour of children, and part
of my enjoyment came from the sheer familiarity of some of
the situations: ''Perry?'' ''Yes,'' said Perry. ''If you
want to say something you come and talk quietly and
face-to-face in a civilised way.'' ''Gurg,'' Perry
''Perry?'' ''Rawk.'' ''Perry!'' ''Yes,'' said Perry,
The accompanying illustrations by Gregory O'Brien, some (or
all) of which represent the ones drawn by Perry herself,
complement the text beautifully. A small and perfectly formed
hardback, this book is a little treasure.
- Dr McKinney is a Dunedin scientist.