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Month in review

Reviews
Avatar: The Last Airbender: Smoke and Shadow Part One by Gene Luen Yang
Bad Kitty Goes to the Vet by Nick Bruel
Bird by Crystal Chan
Blue on Blue by Dianne White
Cats, Dogs, Men, Women, Ninnies & Clowns by Jeanne Steig
City of Pearl by Karen Traviss
The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden
Cutwork by Monica Ferris
Do You Know Dinosaurs? by Alain M Bergeron
Dream On, Amber by Emma Shevah
FBP Federal Bureau of Physics: Vol. 2: Wish You Were Here by Simon Oliver
The Forbidden Library by Django Wexler
Hippopposites by Janik Coat
How to Catch a Cat by Rebecca M. Hale Hyperactive by Scott Christian Sava (In a Sense) Lost and Found by Roman Muradov
Library Lil by Suzanne Williams
Little Blue and Little Yellow by Leo Lionni
Lovely: Ladies of Animation by Lorelay Bove
Midnight Blue by Pauline Fisk
On Highway 61 by Dennis McNally
One Plus One Equals Blue by M.J. Auch
Oz: The Emerald City of Oz by Eric Shanower
Photography: The Groundbreaking Moments by Florian Heine
The Princess and the Pizza by Mary Jane Auch and Herm Auch
Saving Baby Doe by Danette Vigilante
Sock Monkey Boogie Woogie: A Friend Is Made by Cece Bell
Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli
Tumford the Terrible by Nancy Tillman
A Whole New Ballgame by Phil Bildner
The Zoo at the Edge of the World by Eric Kahn Gale

Miscellaneous
Books and Food
On missed reviews
Where the girls are

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Rating System

5 stars: Completely enjoyable or compelling
4 stars: Good but flawed
3 stars: Average
2 stars: OK
1 star: Did not finish

Reading Challenges

My Kind of Mystery Reading Challenge 2017 February - January 2017-8



Dream On, Amber: 01/15/16

Dream On, Amber by Emma Shevah

The British have a LONG history of diary writing and perhaps as long a history of reading each other's diaries. The most famous (infamous?) of the diary keepers is Samuel Pepys. In terms of fiction, though, I see two more recent books as the progenitors of the on-going flood of diary themed books coming out of the UK: The Secret Life of Adrian Mole Aged 13 3/4 by Sue Townsend (1982) and Bridge Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding (1996).

From Bridget Jones we get the parodies of the genre, namely the delightfully wacky Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison (1999).

Where the Georgia Nicolson series are YA, spanning the very youngest of YA to about the middle of it, age wise, Dream On, Amber by Emma Shevah is middle grade and were it to continue as a series, would probably end at the young end of YA. That, though, is just idle speculation on my part! Like all these books, Amber's misadventures in school and at home are written down as a diary entries.

Lucy from Servant x ServiceAt the moment, Dream On, Amber is a middle grade novel about a English girl of Italian and Japanese heritage. Her full name is Ambra Alessandra Leola Kimiko Miyamato (whose long name brings to mind Lucy of the many names from the delightful Servant x Service manga (and 13 episode animé 2013). But just call Ambra, Amber.

One of the big themes in middle grade fiction this year has been the missing parent. The parent has either divorced the other, died tragically, is otherwise unknown, or has run off for reasons unknown to the protagonist.

In Amber's case, it's her Japanese father who has presumably gone back to Japan when his marriage didn't work out. The specifics aren't given and frankly aren't relevant. He's alive but he's not an active part in his daughters' lives. Amber the oldest girl can just barely remember him and misses him. Her younger sister, though, has never met their father and doesn't really have a spot for him in her life. Why should she?

The younger sister, Bella, has a birthday coming up and Amber, deciding that she needs to have Dad in her life, beings to write letters to her kid sister, pretending to be him. Dad becomes a world famous spy, busy saving the world for the Japanese government. Bella takes to the challenge and starts writing back, making more and more demands of her heroic spy father.

While this could have been set up as a tragedy where both girls end up distraught over their missing father, it doesn't play out that way. Bella is not as young or impulsive, or weird as Georgia's sister. She's just playing the part cast for her in this letter writing panto. I really liked how the two girls ended up closer together at the end of this letter writing silliness.

What I didn't like is how Amber's delightful British tween voice is mangled by the well meaning American publisher who just can't fathom American readers being able to handle (gasp) British English. Trust me, kids can sort it out and the book would be ten times better if it were left unadulterated.

Please Sourcebooks / Jabberwocky (and all other US publishers / importers) the next time you bring a British kid's story over, LEAVE THE DAMN TEXT ALONE. Your readers of all ages will thank you.

Four stars

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