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Literature / Amber Brown

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Cover of one of the A is for Amber books

" 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 On the Move

Amber Brown is a series of realistic fiction children's books written by Paula Danziger (author of The Cat Ate My Gymsuit and Can You Sue Your Parents for Malpractice?). Early editions are illustrated by Tony Ross, while later editions are illustrated by Anthony Lewis.

The books focus on the daily life of the titular character, Amber Brown. Amber is a nine-year-old girl who is dealing with a number of tough, realistic problems such as the separation (and later divorce) of her parents, her mother's new boyfriend, and her best friend, Justin Daniels, moving away to Alabama. Despite the often serious nature of the material, the books contain 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 a younger Amber and Justin before her parents' divorce and Justin's move.


Danziger passed away in 2004, resulting in the end of the original series. However, in 2012, the series was revived by Bruce Coville and Elizabeth Levy, whom Danziger described prior to her death as "her best friend" and "her other best friend." Their first installment, Amber Brown is Tickled Pink, was released on September 12, 2012, with Tony Ross returning as the illustrator. Their latest installment, Amber Brown Horses Around, was released on September 11, 2014 and illustrated by Anthony Lewis.

In September 2021, it was announced that the franchise had been picked up as a television series for Apple TV+. The series was described as "an unfiltered look at a girl finding her own voice through art and music in the wake of her parents' divorce." The show premiered on July 29, 2022.

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    Amber Brown books 
  • Amber Brown is Not a Crayon
  • You Can't Eat Your Chicken Pox, Amber Brown
  • Amber Brown Goes Fourth
  • Amber Brown Wants Extra Credit
  • Forever Amber Brown
  • Amber Brown Sees Red
  • Amber Brown Is Feeling Blue
  • I, Amber Brown
  • Amber Brown is Green with Envy
  • Amber Brown is Tickled Pink (Coville and Levy)
  • Amber Brown is On the Move (Coville and Levy)
  • Amber Brown Horses Around (Coville and Levy)

    A is for Amber books 
  • What a Trip, Amber Brown
  • It's Justin Time, Amber Brown
  • Get Ready for Second Grade, Amber Brown
  • It's a Fair Day, Amber Brown
  • Second Grade Rules, Amber Brown
  • Orange You Glad It's Halloween, Amber Brown?

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 Amber's name, but still calls her other gem names as a friendly joke. It's never made entirely clear whether she actually knew Amber's name from the start and was joking the entire time or if she really couldn't remember.
  • Agony of the Feet: In Amber Brown Is Tickled Pink, Amber, her mother, and her mother's fiance, Max, visit Camp Sukkatukket, a camp owned by the father of one of Amber's classmates, Fredrich Allen, as a possible wedding venue. When Fredrich spots them, he drops a hammer that he was using to repair a cabin porch on his foot and starts hopping up and down. The reason for his surprise is because although he and Amber know each other from school, they are not friends. This changes during the course of the visit.
  • Alpha Bitch: Hannah Burton. Generally regarded as the prettiest girl in Amber's class, she appears to dislike Amber for no real reason and takes every opportunity she can to tease and belittle her. At one point, she was also friends with Brandi Colwin, Amber's best friend after Justin, but was so mean to her that Brandi ended their friendship. Amber can't stand her because of this and often complains about her throughout the series.
    • Expanded and mildly averted upon in Amber Brown Horses Around, where Amber and Hannah end up attending the same riding camp and are forced to share a tent with several other girls. Amber gets to fed up with Hannah's mean behavior and supposed pranks at her expense that she teams up with the other girls to plan an elaborate prank on Hannah in return. This backfires when Hannah falls and twists her ankle while running from the prank, and it also transpires that that Hannah was not responsible for the pranks that Amber thought she was. Feeling guilty after this incident, Amber decides to start making an effort to be nicer to Hannah, a sentiment which Hannah returns. By the end of the book, while they are not close friends, their relationship has improved so that they are less hostile to each other.
  • Amicable Exes: Averted with Amber's parents, as they constantly argue and bad-mouth each other to Amber, a behavior that often makes her feel uncomfortable. However, by the end of Amber Brown Horses Around, they seem to be moving towards this for Amber's sake.
  • Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!: Amber can sometimes be easily distracted. She has to go for special classes because she has trouble concentrating while taking 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 fun fact Paula Danzinger gives about herself is that she loves chicken jokes.
  • Babysitter Friendship: Amber is good friends with Brenda, whom she describes as being her favorite "Amber-sitter," despite her being a Cordon Bleugh Chef. She does things like helping Amber with her homework and teaching her Broadway songs.
  • "Begone" Bribe: Amber Brown is Green With Envy combines both the Annoying Younger Sibling and the Dreadful Musician variants. Dylan Marshall, a neighbor of Amber's father, receives an accordion as a Christmas present and plays it so badly that Amber's dad pays him five dollars not to play it around him. Everyone else joins in, and once all is said and done, Dylan ends up making thirteen dollars. He later has to give the money to his older sister when he ruins one of her collectible dolls.
  • BestFriend: Justin was this to Amber until he moved away, and then the spot was filled by Brandi and later Kelly. Amber is very close with all three of them and refers to them as such several times.
  • 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 in Amber Brown Wants Extra Credit. According to her, she feels it isn't fair because whenever kids try to tell private jokes in school, the teacher either makes them tell it to the class or gives them detention.
  • Chickenpox Episode: You Can't Eat Your Chicken Pox, Amber Brown is about Amber getting chicken pox when she arrives in London to see her aunt Pam. She is unable to go to France to see her father, as such, but he ends up coming to London.
  • Cordon Bleugh Chef: Amber's favorite "Amber-sitter," Brenda, is this. She once made Amber meatloaf with a hard-boiled egg in it and told Amber of her Velveeta whipped potatoes and spaghetti diablo.
  • Deliberately Cute Child: Amber in the A is for Amber books is just adorable.
  • Divorce Is Temporary: Amber hopes this is the case for her parents, but eventually has to come to terms with the fact that isn't.
  • Former Friend of Alpha Bitch: Amber's best friend after Justin, Brandi, was this to Hannah because she was lonely. Hannah, however, did not treat Brandi very nicely, causing the latter to end the friendship.
  • Girlish Pigtails: Amber sports these in the A is for Amber books and some of the earlier books until the events of Amber Brown Sees Red, when she gets a haircut.
  • Hidden Depths: Throughout most of the series, Amber dismisses the possibility of ever being friends with her classmate, Fredrich Allen, because he picks his nose and eats the snot. However, when she hangs out with him at his father's camp in Amber Brown Is Tickled Pink, she finds out it is simply a nervous habit and that Fredrich is actually a very nice boy. After this, she no longer participates in teasing him with her friends.
  • Hold the Unsolicited Ingredient: In Amber Brown Is Not a Crayon, this is a Running Gag between Amber and Justin. Whenever they are having pizza, they always say, "Hold the anchovies!" and laugh at the mental image of the pizza delivery worker holding smelly anchovies. This is a recurrence in all future books whenever they see each other again.
  • Hope Is Scary: In Amber Brown Wants Extra Credit, Amber is 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.
  • In Case You Forgot Who Wrote It: Installments released after Paula Danziger's passing are styled as "Paula Danziger's Amber Brown."
  • Insistent Terminology: Amber hates the term "babysitter" and insists on referring to anyone who babysits her as her "Amber-sitter."
  • Malicious Misnaming: Amber sometimes experiences this with kids who call her other color names besides "Amber" or "Brown."
  • Mid-Life 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," while Amber's mother sarcastically calls it the "Midlife Folly."
    Amber: Sometimes I think it is no surprise my parents got divorced.
  • Missing Mom: The new neighbors of Amber's father, the Marshalls, have one of these. According to Polly, she left for South America with another man and makes no attempt to contact her children, leaving their dad, Steve, as a single parent.
  • New Transfer Student: Kelly Green is this in Amber Brown is Feeling Blue. At first, Amber is jealous of her colorful name and seemingly-perfect life, but eventually becomes one of her best friends.
  • Parents as People: Both Amber's mother and father are shown as this throughout the books. Despite their problems (particularly with each other), both are shown to love their daughter very much.
  • Parent with New Paramour: One of the major conflicts that Amber deals with throughout the series is her mother dating and eventually marrying Max, the brother of one of her former coworkers. Amber does not like him at first because she still wants her parents to get back together, but eventually warms up to him and accepts his presence.
    • Occasionally applies when Amber's father goes on dates. Examples include a woman he worked with in Paris, a lady he met at the grocery store, and Amber's dance teacher, Ms. Isobel.
  • Prequel: The A is for Amber series featured younger versions of both Amber and Justin, and take place before Justin moved away and Amber's parents got divorced.
  • Shout-Out: Amber's friend Kelly has a sheepdog named Darth Vader.
    • Danziger was a fan of children's literature in general and regularly name-dropped other titles in the 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 also has a cousin named Lily who has a purple plastic purse.
    • In the original series, Amber's teacher, Ms. Holt, reads Pam Munoz Ryan and Brian Selznick's Amelia and Eleanor Go for a Ride to her class.
  • Silent Treatment: In What a Trip, Amber Brown, Amber subjects her best friend, Justin, to this after he splashes her in the pool and causes her to get water up her nose. She eventually forgives him.
  • Slice of Life: The series revolve around the day-to-day adventures of a young girl who goes to school and has to deal with family problems, friend drama, and general life as a third and fourth-grader.
  • Suck E. Cheese's: In Forever Amber Brown, when Amber and her mother visit the Daniels family in Alabama, Justin and Amber get to visit a variety of this called Say Cheese. In addition to serving very cheesy pizza, the establishment also offers many other foods with cheese, including burritos, cheesecakes, Cheese Doodles, and dumplings. It's a Type 2 example because the food is good, the games are fun, and there are even displays where kids can play dress up and have their pictures taken.
  • There Are No Therapists: Averted. After Amber's father breaks a major promise to her in Amber Brown is Green With Envy, she justifiably gets very upset and angry. Once he apologizes to her, he starts taking advice from a counselor on how to be a better parent, which seems to help.
  • Toilet Humor: Part of the reason that Amber and Justin are such good friends is their shared sense of humor, including a fondness for this.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: The series was inspired by Danziger's real life niece, Carrie, after two of her best friends moved away in the same summer. The plot of You Can't Eat Your Chicken Pox, Amber Brown was also based off of when the two of them went to England together, only for Carrie to get chicken pox on their first night there. Tony Ross also used Carrie as the model for the original illustration of Amber.
  • You're Not My Father: In Amber Brown is On the Move, Amber 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, and it causes her to realize that she needs some help from her friends.
  • Race Lift: In the books, Amber is Caucausian. In the Apple TV series, Amber is half white on her mother's side and half black on her father's side.
  • Canon Foreigner: Brandi was not in the original book series and is an original character created for the series.
  • Age Lift: In the books, Amber was in fourth grade. In the series, she's a middle school student