Friday, October 23, 2015

Dream On, Amber ~ Emma Shevah (earc) Review + Excerpt + Guest Post + Giveaway [@emmashevah @JabberwockyKids]

Dream On, Amber
Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
October 6, 2015
272 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depository/or Amazon

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
Dream On, Amber's Amber Miyamoto is endearing from the very beginning. She is a girl with a 'hideous' name - or, really, several of them. Almost-twelve-year-old Amber is about to start middle school and hopes it is going to be better than elementary school was.

She has high hopes for the start of school - if only people could stop pointing out how tiny she is, asking if she's Chinese and talking abut their smartphones (which Amber, definitely, does not have).

The mix of Amber being nervous about starting a new school but wanting to make friends, her dismay over her cavewoman phone and her longer-running insecurities and doubts around her father's absence were done very well. I liked that Amber had every day concerns but that they played into the bigger issue of her dad not being there.

Then that Amber's dad is Japanese (her mother's Italian) and all that she does not know about being and looking Japanese, that she does not know anyone else who looks like her, it gave the story an added depth.

For Amber, it is hard to miss her dad and be mad at him and wonder why he is not there and question what their relationship would be like, what void he could fill. I liked how she handled things with her sister and the thoughts and problems her choice presented.

Amber is a funny, smart, talented, thoughtful young girl who is dealing with a lot, from the more everyday middle schooler problems, to larger questions about her identity. What she thinks how she thinks, and how she handles it all make for a very enjoyable - and insightful - read. Those with a father (or mother, actually) missing from their lives will find things to identify with and those not will understand some things better.

My review copy did not include the illustrations, but those i have seen are a fun addition to the text. (They seem easy to see in the Kindle preview or 'Look Inside.')

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.

Bye for now

Find Emma Shevah Online:
website // Twitter // Goodreads

Guest Post from Dream On, Amber author Emma Shevah:

Did your own experience having a Thai parent and an Irish parent play into writing the half-Japanese, half Italian Amber?

It certainly did. South London was full of Irish (and Italians and Jamaicans) when I was young and Irish culture was rich and alive in my family. Most children who are immigrants or mixed race have this exposure to their cultures at home, so they know their roots and what that means in terms of their values, traditions and customs. But I didn’t know my father or his family at all so the whole Thai part was a mystery: I knew nothing at all about Thailand and yet it was half of who I was. Kids at school called me ‘Chink’ but I wasn’t Chinese - not that I knew the difference between Chinese and Thai people then - so yes, that bewildering and insecure time was definitely one of the impulses in creating Amber.

I also wanted her halves to be different: one to be warm, loud and loving (and as I have Italian cousins, I used them as my inspiration) and one to be far-off and unusual, like Asian or possibly African. It was complicated choosing where Amber’s father should be from, actually, because it was as though I was making a statement about people from there abandoning their children, so I had to be careful. But in the end I couldn’t get around it, so I made her half Japanese. I lived in Japan for a while and loved ancient Japan and the samurai especially, plus I really wanted Amber’s artwork to be Manga-esque, because I love Manga and Japanese art and thought that, as an artist, she’d draw in that style to connect with her Japanese side. But in the end, the publishers decided against it, so I added other hints of Japan instead.

Obviously, when you draw on aspects of your life – the half-European, half-Asian thing as well as the father-leaving thing, it makes your story too close to home, so I fabricated lots to ensure it was heavily fictionalized. Amber’s mother, grandmother and sister are nothing like mine, and none of those events happened to us. But the way she feels about her father’s absence and being half and half, yes: those are sentiments mined directly from my soul, mixed with two large shots of imagination and a dash of lime, then blended with Amber’s psyche and my odd sense of humor to create a soul-infused narrative cocktail.

Thank you, Emma!

Dream On, Amber Excerpt:

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.
It said:

Dier Dad,
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
love, Bella
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 monthsto 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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review copy provided by the publisher, via NetGalley; Spotlight content and giveaway made possible by publisher

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