Dream On, Amber by Emma Shevah
Published by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky on October 6th 2015
Buy on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, The Book Depository
My name is Amber Alessandra Leola Kimiko Miyamoto. I have no idea why my parents gave me all those hideous names but they must have wanted to ruin my life, and you know what? They did an amazing job.
As a half-Japanese, half-Italian girl with a ridiculous name, Amber’s not feeling molto bene (very good) about making friends at her new school.
But the hardest thing about being Amber is that a part of her is missing. Her dad. He left when she was little and he isn't coming back. Not for her first day of middle school and not for her little sister’s birthday. So Amber will have to dream up a way for the Miyamoto sisters to make it on their own…
“[A] beautifully written story.”—The Independent“One of those books that you simply won’t want to put down…five out of five stars!”—The Guardian
This is the first middle grade book that I’ve ever reviewed on my blog. That being said, this was an absolutely adorable and unique story to start out with. I’m currently in my second year of college and I’m studying to be an elementary school teacher. Right now, I’m taking a children’s literature class and we’ve been discussing how important it is to have diverse books in the classroom. Dream On, Amber is an incredibly diverse book, our heroine is half-Japanese and half-Italian, and I have never seen that in kid’s books before. This is a book that certainly managed to stick with me and I’m keeping it in mind to add to my own future classroom library.
Most of the middle grade books that I’ve read in recent years have male lead characters. Truthfully, I can’t remember the last book I read with a girl, probably something when I was younger. Amber was a total breath of fresh air. I loved how considerate, caring, creative, hilarious, and unique she was. There were several times when I actually laughed out loud from some of her opinions about the other girls in her grade who loved Justin Bieber and she felt left out. I liked that she did her own thing because it made her happy and didn’t care what anyone else thought.
The family factor in Dream On, Amber was a large part of what made this book special. I felt like the absence of Amber’s dad was heartbreaking, but also important. More and more children these days may not have a father around, so I feel like Amber’s story has the ability to really speak to them. I also adored her whole family: her sister Bella, her mom, and her grandmother. I’m not going to lie, there was a scene towards the end of the book between Amber and Bella that made me cry. I don’t have a sister, but I just found the relationship between them to be so beautiful and emotional. I felt like both her mom and grandma were wonderful characters who were supportive of these two awesome young girls. I love parents and grandparents in middle grade books that are loving and accepting, instead of the main character viewing them as overbearing or not being around enough.
I felt like the storyline itself was memorable. I loved how Amber embraced her creative side. At first, she was afraid to share her drawings with others, but it was something she loved. We also get to see Amber slowly find a place where she belongs within her school. Anyway, this was a fabulous and diverse middle grade book that I strongly recommend to any fans of unique books for younger readers.
About the Author:
Emma Shevah is half-Irish and half-Thai born and raised in London. She has lived in Australia, Japan, India (her first child was born in the Himalayas) and Jerusalem before moving back to the UK. Emma has busked as a fire-juggler, been a restaurant manager, a copy writer, an English teacher, and is now a blogger and author.
Excerpt from Dream On, Amber
Bella came in wearing her matching pink nightdress, pink dressing gown, and pink slippers with Hello Kitty all over them. I just don’t get why people like Hello Kitty. I know it’s Japanese and supposed to be kawaii (cute) and everything, so maybe I should like it, but it’s just a picture of a cartoon cat’s head. I mean, seriously, what’s the big deal?
Bella’s hands were behind her back like she was hiding something. She looked much happier than she did when we got home from the party. She moved her arms to the front and handed me a sealed envelope.
“What’s this?” I asked, putting my sharpener down.
“Can you mail it for me tomorrow?”
I looked at the front of the envelope. There was nothing written on it.
“But it’s blank, Bella.”
“Who’s it for?”
“None of your beeswax, Mrs. Nosy Pants.”
“Um…okay. So you…you want me to put it in the mailbox?”
“Yes, Amber. Duuuh. That’s what mailing means.”
“But how is the mailman going to know who to give it to if it has no name on it?”
“Oh,” she said, frowning.
She lay down on her belly on the floor and with her red crayon from the dollar store (well, she wasn’t borrowing any of mine), she wrote on the front of the envelope:“TO MY DAD.”
I looked at her.
“Shush,” she said. “Just mail it for me.”
“But there’s no address on it—”
“The mailman will know where he lives. He knows where everyone lives.”
“He won’t know where Dad lives. Nobody knows where Dad lives. Not even Mum.”
“Didn’t I say ‘shush’? I’m sure I said ‘shush.’ Just mail it for me. Pleeease, Amber.”
I sighed. What was I supposed to tell her? She was too little. She didn’t get it. So I took it and put it on my desk, just to make her happy.
I know I shouldn’t have done it and it’s probably against the law and everything but when she went out of my room, I opened it.
My nam is Bella and Im your dorta. My bithday party is on Sunday 16 Speptmbr and I rely want you too come. And I neid you to play with me in the park and posh me on the swing. Please come home
P.S. Please buy me a perpel Swatch wach and Sparkle Girl Julerry Makar for my bithday.
I didn’t know what to do. Obviously, I wasn’t going to mail it without an address on it. So instead, I put it in my secret place. If you pull the bottom drawer of my dresser all the way out, there’s a space under it on the floor where I put my most sacred things. I had a coin that I found in Hyde Park that I’m sure is Roman or Viking and one day I’m going to sell it and get mega rich. I had a few other cool things in there too. Some of them are embarrassing, like key-rings I made out of lanyard strings when I was, like, seven and valentine cards my mum sent me. Stuff you can’t exactly throw out but really don’t want anyone to see. The letter wasn’t one of my sacred things but where else was I going to put it?
I also had a picture of my dad holding me when I was a baby that I sneaked out of Nonna’s album. Obviously, we have a whole bunch of photos of him in that album, but I wanted one for myself. One of him with me. Just to prove to myself that he did actually exist and hold me once, and he even looked proud. I don’t look at that photo much because it makes me angry. I know it doesn’t make sense to keep it, but there you go. Not everything makes sense. If it did, he would never have left in the first place.
There was another knock on my door, so I quickly closed the drawer.
“Hang on… Okay, you can come in now.”
Bella stuck her head in.
“When do you think he’ll get it?” she asked.
“Well, they have to find him first. It’s not easy, you know. It takes teams of detectives months to find missing people.”
She walked in to my room and said, “Oh,” and did that thing where she points her toes inward and puts one foot over the other, like her toes are hugging.
“Do you think he’ll get it before my birthday?”
“I don’t know, Bella. I don’t think so. But if by some weird miracle he did get it before then, I’m sure he’d come to your party.”
Bella unhugged her toes and put her hands on her hips. “Amber?”
“How do you know I want Dad to come to my party?”
“Well, it’s kind of obvious, Bella. You did ask if he’d get it before your birthday.”
“Oh,” she said, frowning. “Hmm. Well, okay.” And she skipped back to her room.
The letter wasn’t my biggest problem at that point. I was so worried about starting my new school in the morning that I couldn’t get to sleep for ages. When you can’t sleep, your mind starts going a bit doolally. Well, mine does anyway. I start thinking all kinds of crazy things. And eventually the problem with Bella and her letter worked its way into my churning brain.
It was kind of mean and everything but there were times I really wished Bella wasn’t my sister. But knowing there was a huge hole where our dad was supposed to be wasn’t much fun either. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that maybe, just maybe, I could do something about it. I could save Bella from years of torture with one quick solution.
It seemed straightforward enough.
I decided to pretend to be my dad and write back to her, you know, to make her feel better.
And that was it.
The most ingenious idea I’ve ever had lit up my mind like a firework.
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