Amber Brown Series

Book review by
Carrie Kingsley, Common Sense Media
Amber Brown Series Book Poster Image
Amber grows up in funny, touching early reader series.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

There's a little academic content -- tidbits of history and art -- but attention to emotional development is huge, covering topics such as divorce, friendship, family dynamics in ways that resonate with young readers.

Positive Messages

Amber knows that even when things are hard, her parents love her, and they all make a point of apologizing and forgiving one another often.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Amber and her family deal with some big issues, but her parents, teachers, other adults model ways to talk about feelings honestly, and to show how much they care about Amber.

Violence & Scariness
Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Paula Danziger's Amber Brown series isn't afraid to dig deep and touch on complicated issues such as divorce, trouble at school, and changing friendships. Readers may know a younger Amber from the original series A Is for Amber, set in early elementary school. This series starts with Amber in the third grade and follows her into middle school. Her parents' divorce is one of the big issues throughout the series. Readers get to see how Amber is affected by the small things that change, like what to keep at each parent's house, or what she feels like she can't talk about with one parent or the other. Danziger's writing shows great respect to young readers; she knows they're old enough to have complicated feelings, and she doesn't simplify the stories by making either Amber or her parents always right or always wrong. These books highlight the nuances and changing feelings of readers growing up and realizing their world is a complicated place, and any parent lucky enough to read these aloud to a child will appreciate the touching honesty -- and occasional jokes -- on the pages.

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What's the story?

The AMBER BROWN series follows Amber through elementary school and big life events that many young readers have experienced: divorce, a best friend moving away, feeling overwhelmed at school, being scared to make new friends, and much more. Even though Amber stays close to her best friend Justin after he moves, it isn't the same, and Amber misses him terribly as she navigates her parents' divorce. Their divorce affects everything throughout the series, just as a reader whose parents are divorcing likely feels the impact in every aspect of life. Amber jokes a lot, and there are lighthearted moments and endless puns that keep the stories from being overwhelmingly sad, and a giant ball of used gum adds a realistically gross angle to a story about young kids.

Is it any good?

This series is so good, so touching, and so emotionally spot-on for young readers that parents can relate to the complex vulnerabilities as well. It begins when Amber Brown is in third grade. She's young, silly, and funny, but also hurt and confused and sad about the big upheavals in her life. As Amber navigates divorce and friendships, her parents and teachers encourage her to talk about her feelings, and to be accountable for her actions. There's a huge amount of respect for Amber as a person; the adults in her world have hard conversations with her and are fully developed characters alongside Amber.

The running theme of the series is that life is constantly changing, so we should make the most of each day and each moment. It's not a bad message to plant in the brains of readers whose worlds are getting more complicated as they grow up.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the ways Amber Brown's world changes after her parents separate. What are some of the big ways, and some of the little ways? What differences do you think will happen that Amber hasn't realized yet?

  • Have you ever had a friend move away? Did you stay in contact, or wish you had? What would you say to him or her if you wrote a letter today?

  • Have you read any books that have characters who are like Amber or Justin?

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