The Hundred Penny Box – Award winning picture book

The Hundred Penny Box IMG_5350

written by Sharon Bell Mathis and illustrated by  Leo & Diane Dillon

published by Viking Press New York in 1975

Newbery Honor Book

Newbery Honor Book

Newbery  Honor Book 1976

This small unassuming book which I picked up had a huge effect of me.  My expectations for it were low- it’s cellophane wrapper was cracked and greying, the cover illustration was dark and unappealing,  when I selected the book off the shelf- I was completely unfamiliar with the title and was surprised to see that this was a Newbery title…I decided to investigate further and checked the book out.  The pages were brittle with age and clearly the book had not been opened in years.  I wasn’t expecting much….can you imagine my delight when reading the first few pages I encountered the words of my beloved grandmothers favourite hymn-  Take my Hand, Precious Lord  Jim Reeves singing Take my Hand- Precious Lord

“Take My Hand, Precious Lord” 

written by : Thomas A. Dorsey 1936

Precious Lord, take my hand
Lead me on, let me stand
I’m tired, I’m weak, I’m lone
Through the storm, through the night
Lead me on to the light
Take my hand precious Lord, lead me homeWhen my way grows drear precious Lord linger near
When my light is almost gone
Hear my cry, hear my call
Hold my hand lest I fall
Take my hand precious Lord, lead me home

When the darkness appears and the night draws near
And the day is past and gone
At the river I stand
Guide my feet, hold my hand
Take my hand precious Lord, lead me home

Precious Lord, take my hand
Lead me on, let me stand
I’m tired, I’m weak, I’m lone
Through the storm, through the night
Lead me on to the light
Take my hand precious Lord, lead me home

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This book portrays the relationship between a young boy and his elderly great aunt.  It is a tender exploration of the complex issues surrounding aging and the stress and strains placed on care givers.  I found this book extremely satisfying-  it was something I had not expected and one I won’t forget for a long time.  The  confrontational subject matter forced me to grapple with my own positions on how gracious I would, or could be with a tiresome older person living in my own home…. young Michael criticises his mother and feels she is too harsh on great Aunt Dew.  However- the reader is given the perspective of the physical burden as well as the emotional toll of looking after the infirm and emotional older lady who has been grafted into the family through marriage.
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For me, the most uplifting part of this book was the insight into Aunt Dew’s inner prayer life…As the remaining days of her life in this world come to a close, the older lady spends her time recalling the important milestones in her life, and draws on the familiar words of a song she holds dear.  This picture warmed my heart.  Even though her body was frail, her spirit was strong.
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A Caregiver’s Prayer

Heavenly Father, help me better understand
and believe I can do what you ask me to do.

Forgive me for the times, even now,
when I question your judgment.

As I go about the many daily tasks of caregiving,
give me energy.

As I watch my loved one oh-so-slowly walk
across the room, give me strength.

As I answer his/her repeated question
just one more time, give me patience.

As I look for solutions to whatever
is the most recent concern, give me wisdom.

As I reminisce with him/her about the
“good old days,” give me a moment of laughter.

As I get to know my loved one in a new way,
seeing both his/her strength and frailty, give me joy.

As I sit beside my loved one’s bed waiting
for his/her pain medication to take effect,
give me comfort.

Lighten my burden, answer my prayer,
and give me the strength to do what
so often seems impossible.

Give me a quiet place to rest when I need it
and a quieting of my anxieties when I’m there.

Change my attitude from a tired,
frustrated and angry caregiver
to the loving and compassionate
one I want to be.

Remain my constant companion as I face
the challenges of caregiving
and when my job is through
and it’s time for me to let go,
help me remember
he/she is leaving my loving arms
to enter your eternal embrace. Amen.

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