I received a copy of The ACB with Honora Lee by Kate De Goldi via LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers program. It’s short and illustrated, which made it a perfect read for the late hours of last month’s readathon!
About the Book:
Perry’s parents keep her busy. She has piano lessons and clarinet lessons and Music and Movement class and tutoring. On Fridays, the rare day Perry doesn’t have something to do after school, she gets to go straight home to her nanny, Nina, and Nina’s son Claude. Nina is an excellent baker, and Perry and Claude have fun playing together.
On Saturday mornings, Perry and her dad go to the Santa Lucia rest home to visit her grandmother, Honora Lee. Gran loves the alphabet, though she never remembers who Perry and her father are. Perry doesn’t really mind. She’s intrigued by Gran. When Music and Movement class is cancelled mid-year and Perry needs a new after-school activity, her parents reluctantly decide she can visit Gran by herself on those days instead. Perry becomes a regular fixture at the rest home, getting to know the staff and the patients and ultimately working them all into the alphabet book she creates.
I found The ACB with Honora Lee to be…nice. Fine. Lots of bland, noncommittal adjectives. It’s written for young readers, so my expectations weren’t particularly high. Still, despite being generally ok, The ACB with Honora Lee was lacking the sparkle and pull of other middle-grade novels I’ve read. It felt very much like a straight line, without a climax or low point or any other shape, for that matter, to be found. Which, I suppose, isn’t a problem. It’s just not what I’m used to.
What I thought De Goldi did very well was create her characters. It didn’t take her long at all to give each one a personality of his or her own. Everyone from Perry to her impersonal parents to her teachers to her nanny to the people at Santa Lucia was impressively unique for having appeared in an illustrated 124-page novel with big print. Perry was my favorite. You get a taste of her personality right off the bat from passages like this one, on the second page:
‘Maybe bumblebees are just getting stupider,’ said Perry. She was thinking of becoming a zoologist when she grew up.
‘There’s no such word as stupider,’ said both her parents together.
Perry looked up from the picture she was drawing. (It was a spider making a web.)
‘There is now,’ she said.
The writing itself is clever for the reading level, and I really had no complaints there. The way De Goldi uses language is, at least in part, why she can create such charming characters, I think. It’s just that the story in which those charmingly drawn characters were set felt flat.
The illustrations, while whimsical, got on my nerves a bit because they were inconsistent. Sometimes they seemed to represent the drawings Perry was making in the story, while other times they illustrated something that was happening in the story itself. Either one would have been lovely, but the mix got a little frustrating. It seems like a missed opportunity, somehow. I stopped paying attention to them midway through.
Overall, I can see how the intended audience for this novel would enjoy it. It wasn’t quite my cup of tea. I’ve heard Kate De Goldi’s other books are good, but I’m not in any rush to run out and read them.
The Verdict: Mediocre
If you’re a big fan of middle-grade fiction, or if you have a young reader who is getting into chapter books, The ACB with Honora Lee might work nicely for you. However, for general adult readers, I’d give this particular novel a pass.
What’s your favorite middle-grade novel?