Cover Image: Clarence's Big Secret

Clarence's Big Secret

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

This is another story about an everyday hero that I loved. This hero did not do anything that most people will think extraordinary, but as a retired teacher, I certainly think it was. Clarence was illiterate. He had a very successful life, married, had a family and grandchildren, but he depended on his wife to do so many things for him. When she passed away at the age of 85, 93 year old Clarence did not know what he would do. Even his children did not know he couldn't read. He tried to teach himself, but when one of his children, Doris, saw him doing this and asked what he was doing, he finally told her. His daughter was a teacher, so she taught her father to read. At the age of 100, he returned to school for the first time since he was only six and read aloud to children. So, why do I think he is a hero? Being able to live today in Canada and not be able to read and write is difficult, but he was successful with the help of his wife. To take the step to learn to read and write when he was well into his 90s, Wow, that makes him a hero in my eyes. You are never to old to learn. I definitely recommend this book to everyone. First, it will show how much damage you can do to someone by laughing at them or making inconsiderate comments. Next we can see that keeping this secret can cause you to make decisions that might not be in your best interests and finally that it is never too late to learn something. This book should be in all libraries, school and public.
Was this review helpful?
Clarence's Big Secret by Christine MacGregor Cation and Roy MacGregor, illustrated by Mathilde Cinq-Mars means more to me as an adult than I imagine it would have to me as a child. It has such strong themes of shame, pride, education, and growth that I imagine it's a bit much for a children's book. And yet, at the same time, it's an amazing story that teaches such important messages to the point that both children and adults will benefit immensely from having it in their lives.

This is the story of a young boy who had to interrupt his education in order to provide for his family after his father was injured. In doing so, Clarence gains a large and dark secret: he doesn't know how to read. He grows up, keeping this secret close, even as he marries and has children. Eventually, one person, his wife, learns of his struggles. Fueled by his embarrassment, she helps him to survive the world without ever needing to read a single word. It is not until many years later, nearly a hundred years old, that Clarence finally works to learn how to read.

Clarence's Big Secret is an incredibly moving story. Though it takes him many, many years to finally learn, Clarence proves that it doesn't matter how old one is. As long as they are willing to put in the hard work and effort, they can learn anything. And the amount of growth Clarence had to go through to finally admit his struggles and change his life around was great to see.

In its own way, this story is truly inspiring. It gives an opportunity to take away some amazing messages of understanding and growth. I remain impressed with and emotional about this tale to this day and I hope others will be as well.

I was provided a free copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
I received a free ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review 

This is a non-fiction book, but I think kids will be interested and inspired by the main character.. I think non-readers or reluctant readers will appreciate that Clarence never gave up and finally learned to read. The illustrations are very colorful too.
Was this review helpful?
It took me longer than I care to admit the figure out the titular "Big Secret". I blame the narration. We're told off the bat that Clarence only went to school once, but after that it gets all cagey and vague about the secret. To the point that I figured there must be something else Clarence was hiding. While it's inspiring for someone to continue learning so late in life, I had to wonder what a kid would take away from this story.
Was this review helpful?
Christine MacGregor-Cation and Roy MacGregor bring to life the story of Clarence Brazier in Clarence’s Big Secret.  Clarence is a hard working young man.  He takes care of his family the best way he knows how, running the family farm by the age of seven and taking on many different jobs throughout his life.  But Clarence had a big secret: he never learned how to read.  It wasn’t until he was nearly 100 years old that he finally learned how to read and when he did his appetite for the written word was insatiable.

It’s hard to imagine someone never learned how to read.  However, it is not the case across the world and even in our own country.  14% of Canadians are illiterate.  Can you imagine how difficult daily life is for those who cannot read?  Navigating the world when so much of what we do requires us to read and understand.  Inspiration can be drawn from realizing that you are never too old to learn something new.  Even if it takes a while to get there, we have the capacity to always be learning something new.  

My best review helpers are my children.  Sure I can read a story and let you know what I think of it, how you might use it in your classroom or enjoy it with your children.  Yet I am always so interested in The Bear and The Bee’s thoughts about the stories we read.  I can never quite be sure what will captivate them and what just becomes another book on the shelf. I am constantly surprised by what captures their imaginations and Clarence’s Big Secret is just such a story.  My readers were very astounded by Clarence’s lack of reading skill and equally flabbergasted that he learned how to read at nearly 100 years old.  I think part of that was the fact he was nearly 100 years old.  They have been telling their friends about the story of the 100 year old man who learned how to read and The Bee especially wanted me to read her the story over and over again throughout our Christmas holidays.  I truly was not sure when I first read the story myself how much interest my two would have and was so pleasantly surprised.

The illustrations by Mathilde Cinq-Mars are perfect for this wonderful story.  They have a historical feel without being dull or drab, perfect for moving the story along and capturing the reader’s imagination
Was this review helpful?
This book spans the life of Clarence from childhood till he was 100 years old. It shows his work ethic and kindness, but Clarence has a secret throughout his life that only his wife knew about. After she passes away, he is the only one that knows. It was a sweet book about perseverance.
Was this review helpful?
This is a beautifully illustrated picture book about a real persons life, who didn't learn to read until he was in his 90s.



He kept quitting jobs, because he did not want to be exposed, and was able to hide his secret because of his wife.



And once he did learn to read, he went to classes, and read to them, and told them his story.

What a wonderful, inspiring story, that we are never too old to learn, and to learn how to read.

Thanks to Netgalley for making this book available for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
This is a straightforward, nicely illustrated picture book that tells the story of Clarence Brazier. Born into a large family in Magnetawan in central Ontario in 1906,  in childhood Clarence did attend school—for one day. Because he was so big for his age, his teacher mistakenly assumed he was in the third grade. He was asked to stand and spell his name, but he couldn’t do it. He didn’t even know the alphabet yet! The sniggering of his fellow student deeply humiliated him, leaving an indelible mark. He fled the school, refusing to return. 

Even though he was illiterate for the greater part of his life, Clarence was remarkably accomplished, He worked in mines, in the woods, and on his own farm. The only person who knew his secret was his wife. She had handled all the literacy tasks in their 65-year marriage. After she died, Clarence set about teaching himself to read—using quite an ingenious method. However, it was in sharing his secret with another family member (his daughter, Doris) that his education really took off. Doris was a teacher, and her dad became her eldest student. In time Clarence was reading for two hours each day. He shared his inspirational story with many elementary school students during the last years of his life.

The book includes a couple of photographs of Clarence as well as a short but valuable authors’ note about the importance of reading and literacy.

Recommended.
Was this review helpful?
*received for free from netgalley for honest review* Wow, what a fantastic book. The art is amazing and I love nonfiction children's books so naturally I loved this book. I enjoy the extra facts at the end as well. 5 out of 5.
Was this review helpful?
Clarence's Big Secret is based upon the life story of a real person.  Clarence was a smart and BIG young boy.  When he got to school, the teacher thought he was older than he was and asked him to do things that he had not yet learned.  He fled school and never returned. 

Clarence was clever and talented.  He went on to have a very productive life while keeping his big secret.  Find out what it was in this charming story which clearly shows that one is never too old to learn or overcome. 

The illustrations feel a bit old fashioned but in a good way.  They contribute to the story's atmosphere.

This was a lovely read.  Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher.  All opinions are my own.
Was this review helpful?
Clarence's Big Secret tells the story of Clarence Brazier, a man who didn't learn to read until he was almost 100 years old!

This is the type of picture book biography I really like. It tells the main events in the subject's life simply, without embellishment, allowing the facts to propel the story forward. There's a nice author's note at the back about literacy and education, and we also find out a little more about Clarence.

The illustrations are a lovely complement to the text, done in soft watercolours. I've encountered Mathilde Cinq-Mars's illustrations before, and while I wasn't previously that impressed with them, I thought they really worked well here.

Overall, this is a nice little biography that proves you're never too old to learn a new skill!
Was this review helpful?
I love the story of Clarence!  This is a wonderful book for adult literacy classes, book clubs, and children’s story hour.
Was this review helpful?
Such a wonderful, true story about the power of reading. Clarence did not learn to read until he was almost 100 years old. This book would be great for sparking discussions about how reading impacts our daily lives, and how you can learn something new at any age. A great story, with a positive message.
Was this review helpful?
In Clarence's Big Secret, Clarence is a boy that is big for his age. He is humiliated on the first day of first-grade when his teacher assumes that he is older and tells him to spell his name. Due to this humiliation, Clarence leaves   school and never returns. Clarence works on his father's farm, meets a girl and falls in love, and even begins a successful career all without knowing how to read. In fact, Clarence successfully keeps his secret from everybody, except his wife, for nearly a hundred years. Eventually, Clarence begins trying to teach himself how to read. One of his daughters discovers his secret and sets out to help him. After that, Clarence becomes a frequent reader and even visits schools to share his story with children.

I really appreciate that this book addresses illiteracy throughout adulthood. Illiteracy is something that many people are ashamed of and keep secret, however it is a more common issue than many people realize. Sharing this book with children, or even adults, will help bring awareness to the issue of illiteracy and hopefully ease the shame that some people feel due to being illiterate. The story and the illustrations portray Clarence as an intelligent, hard-working, and caring individual that just happens to struggle with reading. Although illiteracy is a major secret for Clarence, he is able to be successful in other areas. I think that readers will be able to identify with Clarence's struggles and his fear that his secret will be revealed. I recommend this book for school, classroom, and public libraries.

I received a free copy of this title in exchange for an honest review.

#NetGalley #ClarencesBigSecret
Was this review helpful?
Clarence's Big Secret by Roy MacGregor, Christine MacGregor Cation, and Mathilde Cinq-Mars is a cute picture book biography of Clarence Edgar Brazier, a man who didn't learn to read until his nineties but who became a literacy advocate as a result.

Cinq-Mars's illustrations are incredibly sweet and cute, with soft colours, and it helps give the book a homey and nostalgic feeling that is incredibly pleasant to look at. The illustrations are probably the highlight of this book for me. 

The story itself may be an introductory picture book, but it is thorough, covering many of the events throughout Brazier's life. The story has a lot of nice messages about promoting literacy and being able to learn to read at any time. It really shows how important learning to read can be in a world where the written word is so prominent. I personally really enjoyed the author's note at the end that included literacy statistics.

I think my main issues with the book were probably not things that would bother everyone, but they bothered me. Clarence is ashamed of his inability to read, and I really didn't feel like there was anything in this story to suggest that he shouldn't feel ashamed, which depressed me. I also thought that some of the things that might have been considered acceptable during the time they would have happened were presented in a rather unquestioning way (for example, Clarence's coworkers wear tea towels as skirts so that they "can" dance the girl parts, or Clarence gives his daughters nicknames based on their weight or the fact that he always wanted a boy) that I think provide potentially questionable messages for the target age group.

Overall, Clarence's Big Secret is a cute read that serves as both a nice story and a solid introduction to literacy advocacy and the importance of learning to read despite the book's issues. I would definitely recommend it, but with the caveat that adults and children read it together to discuss the positive and negative aspects of the story.
Was this review helpful?
What I Loved:  This was a great children's non-fiction story written in a way that felt like a story to a child.  It was easy for my daughter to understand and she enjoyed the book.

How I Felt:  I loved the way the book started with Clarence as a young boy and progressed through his life.  It didn't move so fast that you felt like parts of his life were skipped, and it wasn't so slow that if felt like the story dragged.  The end of the book wraps up with the triumphant reading of a book to children by Clarence, and it was so nice to see that while, it took him many years, he put effort into something that he wanted and he learned to read. 

To Read or Not To Read:  This is a great book to provoke a literacy discussion with a child.  It's perfect for elementary school children.

What's This Book About Anyway?
Clarence kept a secret for almost his entire life (almost 100 years!).  Whenever there was a part of his life that may require him to read, he runs away, which is sad. He has missed so many opportunities.  However, he grows up and meets his wife and they have a family.  As he grows older, we see how happy he is.  Then, his wife passes away, and he doesn't know what to do.  She took care of any writing or reading that was required to run the house.  he decides to try to teach himself, and then enlists the help of his daughter.  

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for this ARC in exchange for my honest review.
Was this review helpful?
What an inspirational story! I have known people like him, and am sure there are many more, even in this day and age. I think this book  should be in every senior center, immigrant centers, and classrooms. So sad not knowing how to read, one misses so much.
Was this review helpful?
What a wonderful first biography for many children. Clarence is inspirational and shows children no matter the age you are still able to learn...anything! Absolutely charming!
Was this review helpful?