Archive for Cancer

The ABC’s of Cancer “According to Lilly Isabella Lane”

Written by Terri Forehand
Illustrated by Dawn Phillips

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Lilly Isabella Lane is nine years old. Lilly is a composite of the children for whom the author, also a registered nurse, has given care. A short time ago Lilly was a normal nine year old doing normal nine year old activities. Then she got a fever and only wanted to sleep. She was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia.

Rather than be depressed about her illness, Lilly decides to learn about it and educate other kids. She wants to be as active and positive as possible. In the process of telling others, she selects words that describe the pros, cons, and neutrals of leukemia and its treatment. At least one word is chosen for each letter of the alphabet. The words for each letter are woven into a prose narrative about treatment, cure, and favorite things.

Lilly begins with A is for “attitude,” the positive spunky outlook on life needed to fight cancer. She ends with Z is for “zoo” and “zebra” her favorite place to visit and her favorite animal next to a brown horse. In between are concrete and abstract and subjective words such as B is for “bald,” D is for “dying,” I is for “intravenous lines,” M is for “Make a Wish,” S is for “soup” and “sorry about that,” and T is for “tests.” Two soup recipes and a group of ideas to share with a patient conclude the text.

The result is an upbeat info-fiction story filled with easily accessible information about a dreaded disease. One needs to read the whole book to get a full picture and then there are many unanswered questions. Those questions could be used for further discussion, additional research or a visit to or by an oncologist.

Illustrator Dawn Phillips has brought a spunky, colorful Lilly to life. Though bald, Lilly often is depicted wearing quirky and colorful headgear. It is her eyes and mouth, however, which leave an impression; they appear to be emphasized with bright make-up outlined with pen and ink. The eye is drawn to Lilly’s lovely face and away from her baldness.

Other books that appear in standard review sources feature a parent who has cancer, and the narrative is based on that parent-child relationship during the illness.


Extras: Grade level lesson plans about cancer, helping others, and taking action are available at Scholastic Livestrong at School


  • ABCs of CancerTitle: The ABC’s of Cancer “According to Lilly Isabella Lane”
  • Author: Terri Forehand
  • Illustrator: Dawn Phillips
  • Reviewer: Marion Mueller
  • Format: Paperback picture book
  • ISBN: 9781492334644
  • Genre: Fiction
  • Lexile score: 1000