Michael's great-great aunt Dewbert is one hundred years old and she has a penny for every year she's been alive. In a game they play together, Michael chooses a penny from her collection and Aunt Dew tells him what happened in the year it was minted. Born in 1874, she was a baby during the years of Reconstruction when the nation saw its first black members in Congress. In 1930, her husband died at the outset of the Depression. Aunt Dew keeps her pennies in an old wooden box she calls her hundred penny box. Her life is in that box, she says: take the box and take her life from her.
But Michael comes to see that Aunt Dew is every bit as old and feeble as the wooden box that holds her pennies. Sometimes her mind is clear, but other times she sings to herself and confuses Michael for his father. Sometimes the hundred penny box means the world to her, and other times Aunt Dew simply wants to take a nap.
Author Sharon Bell Mathis earned a Newbery Honor for this touching story that looks at aging through a child's eyes. The dark watercolors of illustrators Leo and Diane Dillon wonderfully portray Aunt Dew's feebleness and Michael's fascination with her memories. Truly, his love for his great-great aunt is as profound as his inability to understand how her age affects her.