Literature: Amber Brown
"...one thing I, Amber Brown, have learned in nine and three-quarters years is that things are going to change whether I want them to or not. I didn't really want a new house. I like this one just fine. But Mom and Max bought it anyway. I didn't want a new life. But Mom and Dad divorced anyway. I didn't want a new best friend. But my best friend ever, Justin Daniels, moved anyway. Big changes are a big pain on the brain."Amber Brown is a series of books written by Paula Danziger (The Cat Ate My Gymsuit, Can You Sue Your Parents for Malpractice?, etc.) and illustrated by Tony Ross. Realistic fiction, the books focused on the adventures of the titular character, Amber Brown, who had to deal with some tough real-life problems such as the divorce of her parents and her best friend moving away. Despite the often serious nature of the material, the books contained a fair amount of humor and a generally optimistic tone. Amber was also featured in A is for Amber, a series of early-reader picture books presenting the adventures of the young Amber before her parents got divorced and before her friend Justin moved away.Danziger passed away in 2004, resulting in the series ending on a cliffhanger, with Amber's mother about to get re-married. The series would see a revival in 2012, when Bruce Coville and Elizabeth Levy, whom Danziger described as a her two best friends, began writing new books in the series. The latest installment, Amber Brown Horses Around, was released on September 11, 2014.
Amber Brown Is On the Move
The Amber Brown books provide examples of the following:
- Accidental Misnaming: In Amber Brown Is On the Move, Amber's dance teacher (and later her Dad's girlfriend), Miss Isobel, is bad at remembering names and keeps calling her a different gem every time she sees her - "opal," "topaz," etc. Eventually, she remembers her names, but still calls her other gem names as a friendly joke. It's also never made entirely clear whether she actually knew Amber's name from the start and was joking the entire time.
- Agony of the Feet: In Amber Brown Is Tickled Pink, Amber, her mother and her stepfather to be visit Camp Sukkatukket, a camp owned by the father of one of Amber's classmates, Fredrich Allen. When Fredrich spots them, he drops a hammer that he was using to repair the cabin porch out of shock and then starts hopping up and down. He dropped it because he wasn't expecting Amber and her family there and the two of them aren't even friends at the time. (Though they become friends during the visit.)
- Alpha Bitch: Hannah Burton. Generally regarded as the prettiest girl in Amber's class, she seems to dislike Amber for no good reason (though possibly simply because she finds her silly). She takes every opportunity to tease her and otherwise make snide comments at her and is generally just thoroughly unpleasant even though Amber has never really done anything to her at all, other than sometimes complain about her to her friends and parents because of the things she's done. It all comes to a head in Amber Brown Horses Around when the two are forced to share a tent with several other girls at summer camp. Amber gets so tired of Hannah's mean behavior and apparent pranks that she teams with the other girls to plan an elaborate prank of her own, which blows up terribly when Hannah twists her ankle after trying to run when hearing a spooky voice on a tape played as part of the prank. After this, it transpires that Hannah was not responsible for the pranks that Amber thought she was, though everyone still agrees that Hannah has been awful to Amber ever since they got to camp. In order to keep things harmonious at camp, the two decide to start making an effort to try not to be so mean to each other and take the time to think about how their behaviors and words effect each other and it seems at the end of the story that even if they could never be friends, they could possibly at least reach the point of becoming frenemies.
- Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!: Amber can sometimes be easily distracted. She has to go for special classes because she has trouble concentrating to take standardized tests.
- Author Appeal: In the A is for Amber books, Amber's best friend Justin declares that first grade is the "year of the chicken joke" and tells only chicken jokes the whole year. In a bonus feature included in Amber Grown is Green With Envy (one of the books from the main series), "Things you should know about Paula Danziger," Danziger states "I love chicken jokes."
- Broken Bird: In Amber Brown Wants Extra Credit, Amber seems a bit like this. She's worried about letting her mother's new boyfriend, Max, into her life, because she fears that if she comes to like him, she'll just be upset in a few months when he leaves like her father did. She's also generally upset with her lot in life, feeling like she doesn't have any control over what's happening around her.
- Censorship by Spelling: Commented on by Amber Brown in Amber Brown Wants Extra Credit, in comparison to private jokes (see Getting Crap Past the Radar below).
- Cordon Bleugh Chef: Amber Brown's favorite Amber-sitter, Brenda, is this. She once made Amber a meat loaf with a hard-boiled egg in it. Another time, she told Amber of her Velveeta whipped potatoes and spaghetti diablo, but fortunately they already had pizza on the way.
- Deliberately Cute Child: Amber in the A is for Amber books.
- Divorce Is Temporary: Amber keeps hoping it's true, but eventually has to come to terms with the fact that isn't.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: In Amber Brown Wants Extra Credit, Amber comments "Come on, everyone, let's turn on the oven and do some pre-heating." This causes Amber's mother and her boyfriend Max to laugh, but when Amber asks what for, she's told that it's a private joke. This causes her to rage to herself about this sort of adult hypocrisy, as whenever kids tell a joke that they want to keep private, they're made to tell anyway, asked "... would you like to share that with the rest of the class?" and if they don't, they get detention.
- Hidden Depths: Throughout most of the series, Amber dismisses the possibility of ever being friends with a classmate of hers named Fredrich Allen because he picks his nose and chews the boogers, and she doesn't think she could ever be friends with someone who does that. In Amber Brown Is Tickled Pink, however, she meets him at his father's farm and comes to realize pretty quickly that the picking and eating is just a bad nervous habit, rather like how she sometimes chews on her hair or her nails, and learns that Fredrich is actually a pretty nice boy. After this, she becomes very annoyed with her other friends when they tease him behind his back, just like she used to do with them, only now she feels guilty about it.
- Hold The Unsolicited Ingredient: In Amber Brown Is Not a Crayon, this is a Running Gag between Amber and Justin. They always ask for a pizza, "hold the anchovies," and then laugh at the mental image of the pizza boy holding an armful of anchovies. This recurs in all future books where she either visits him or he visits her.
- Hope Is Scary: See Broken Bird above.
- In Case You Forgot Who Wrote It: Installments released after Paula Danziger's passing are styled as "Paula Danziger's Amber Brown."
- Malicious Misnaming: Sometimes some kids tease Amber by calling her color names other than "Amber" or "Brown."
- Midlife Crisis Car: In the latter books, Amber's father drives around a very fancy sports car that Amber's mother refers to as "your father's middle-aged-man-starting-over car." In Amber Brown Horses Around, it's revealed that it's a red sports car that he calls his Hot Tamale, though Amber's mother is now calling it the "Midlife Folly" as a snarky rhyme.Amber: Sometimes I think it is no surprise my parents got divorced.
- Prequel: The A is for Amber books featured rather younger versions of Amber and Justin, before Justin moved away and Amber's parents got divorced.
- Shout-Out: One of Amber's friends has a sheepdog named Darth Vader.
- Danziger was a fan of children's literature in general and regularly name-dropped other titles in these books. In the A is for Amber book Orange You Glad It's Halloween, Amber Brown?, Amber's best friend Justin dresses a pumpkin in underpants and calls it "Captain Underpants." Amber has a cousin named Lily who has a purple plastic purse. In one of the books in the original series, Amber's teacher reads Pam Munoz Ryan and Brian Selznick's Amelia and Eleanor Go for a Ride to her class.
- Slice of Life: It's the day-to-day adventures of a young girl who goes to school and has to deal with family, friend and general life problems.
- Suck E. Cheese's: In Forever Amber Brown, Justin and Amber visit Say Cheese. Although they do offer very cheesy pizza, which Amber and Justin get and enjoy, they also offer pretty much anything else with cheese you can think of; burritos, cheesecakes, Cheese Doodles, dumplings, etc. It's a Type 2 example— the food is good, the games are high-tech and fun, and there are displays where kids can have their pictures taken and pretend to be in various scenes, like aliens in space.
- There Are No Therapists: Averted. After Amber's father breaks a major promise to her and she justifiably gets very upset and angry, he starts taking lessons from a counselor on how to be a better parent. They seem to work.
- You're Not My Father: In Amber Brown is On the Move, the title character shouts this after her new stepfather, Max, gets on her case about not packing the stuff in her room for their upcoming move to their new house. She's upset at herself, as she normally likes Max reasonably well, and it causes her to realize that she needs some help from her friends.