The ACB with Honora Lee by Kate de Goldi and Gregory O'Brien
|The ACB with Honora Lee by Kate de Goldi and Gregory O'Brien|
|Category: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: A well-meaning book, that fails to get very far with its hampered approach and lack of focus on what is important for its story.|
|Buy? Maybe||Borrow? Maybe|
|Pages: 128||Date: October 2015|
|Publisher: Hot Key Books|
Meet Perry. She's a hen-pecked sort of girl – forever having her grammar corrected by her parents, who love nothing more than packing her off to after-school classes, such as music lessons she has no aptitude for. Her father has one dutiful extra-curricular activity, too – visiting his own mother in her care home, and taking Perry with him. But when one of the classes she is involved with packs up, she decides to spend more time with the old dear – after all, she finds it hard to identify her own kith and kin, has memory problems, and reverts to being a teacher yet cannot even play I Spy correctly. Once in the routine, Perry finds the weird happenings and characters in the home would be ideal ingredients for an ABC book for a school project.
This felt unfortunately woolly, for me. I started off loving the character of Perry and her situation – asking awkward questions any parent would welcome as signs of intelligence, only for hers to find them annoying distractions. Soon the book turned to the creation of the ABC – or the so-called ACB, as her Gran, Honora Lee, attacks it in a completely random order – and I found no evidence this was needed for the school project it turns out to be. Could it not have been mentioned at the start, and not just at the end, that there was a deadline on its creation?
Equally loose in its approach is this whole book, which pointedly mentions Perry's illustrations she spends much time over, only to produce mediocre ones of its own – semi-diagrammatic, schematic efforts or ungainly scenes. So dismissive is this approach I began to feel that her art was redundant – as was a sub-plot thing regarding dying bees, of all things. That was less necessary than anything else, I found – the book was quirky enough courtesy of the parents and the old-timers without that.
Which brings me to the point, or the USP, of the book. It is seriously designed to encourage interaction across the generations – the connect was always there between Perry and Honora, even if the latter could never remember the former. But to me there was too much of a matter-of-fact approach to the style, that I never really engaged with Perry beyond her circumstance. It would have been repetitive to have been told she smiled, she smirked, she found something surprising, every single instance that one of the old dears did something childish, sinful or mistakenly. But without that evidence there was little to make me believe Perry was really enjoying the formative experience of being in the home – especially when it turns out the alphabet book is a homework project and not solely a labour of love. What would have shown the elderly characters in a clearer light, and would have made everything more concise, clearly-intentioned and engaging would have been for the story to have been a film. That way you could see the interaction develop alongside the book, for this text hardly gets into progressing the relationship. I can see a decent movie being made of this, for it has some fine elements and a proper, worthy moral – but it would be a very rare instance of the film being better than the novel.
I must thank the publishers for my review copy.
Of course, not all girls get it easy with their older relatives – as Awful Auntie by David Walliams proved so well. Another harridan of an aunt is found with the equally brilliant Warren the 13th and the All-Seeing Eye by Tania del Rio and Wilhelm Staehle.
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You can read more book reviews or buy The ACB with Honora Lee by Kate de Goldi and Gregory O'Brien at Amazon.com.
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