On the Same Page - The ACB with Honora Lee Book Review

By Kristen Phillips. Published on 3/11/2021

This is the first in a series of book reviews from Kristen Phillips. Reading about other people’s experiences helped Kristen emotionally and practically around her father’s illness. Her hope is that these reviews will raise awareness of the ever-increasing number of books (fiction and non-fiction) available to support and educate those of us affected by dementia.

The ACB with Honora Lee
(Random House, 2012)
Kate de Goldi
124 pages

‘I’ll say hello to Gran from you,’ said Perry.
‘She doesn’t really know who I am,’ said her father, crossly.
‘She doesn’t really know who anyone is,’ said Perry.  ‘But she knows lots of other things.’
‘Like what?’
‘Songs and poems and riddles and things.  Sayings and things’.  
‘Fat lot of good that is,’ said her father.
‘That’s what Gran says!’ said Perry, amazed.  

Overview

Perry visits her Gran at the Santa Lucia residential home on Thursdays after school and becomes part of the home’s whānau.  She decides to write an ABC (which becomes an ‘ACB’), based on her experiences at Santa Lucia.  
 

Who would enjoy this book?

Although Kate de Goldi is an award-winning Young Adult and Children’s author, this book can be enjoyed by readers of all ages.   Gregory O’Brien’s colourful, retro illustrations enhance the story and add to the book’s universal appeal.  The ACB with Honora Lee is beautifully produced and would make a fine gift.
 

Reflections

I have read this book three times now – twice to myself, and once out loud to my partner.  I will read it again, as each time I see and hear new things about: family, compassion, mortality, being different, and creativity.   There are also a lot of funny bits.
I like the short chapters, all with headings in lower case, which, to me, reflect the softness and kindness in the story.
Seen through Perry’s eyes, Gran and the other residents are not judged or ignored, but are just as much a part of her life as her friends and family outside Santa Lucia.  Many people with dementia/cognitive impairment can be marginalised because of the stigma associated with their illness.  Perry’s compassionate and creative ways of being with Gran and the other residents show us other possibilities. 

Matthew Croucher 
Kristen Phillips grew up in Te Awa Kairangi / Lower Hutt. She went travelling ‘for a year’ and returned to Aotearoa after thirty years based in London.  Her father, Don, was diagnosed with dementia in 2011 and died in 2019.  She currently lives in Te Whanganui-a-Tara with her partner, the writer Mia Farlane.  As well as working part-time for Dementia Wellington, Kristen likes reading, walking and dancing Argentine Tango.  

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