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
About the Author
Emma Shevah is half-Irish and half-Thai and was 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 worked as a fire-juggler, a restaurant manager, a copywriter, an English teacher, and is now a blogger and author. Visit Emma at emmashevah.com.
Read an Excerpt
Dream On, Amber
By Emma Shevah
Sourcebooks, Inc.Copyright © 2014 Emma Shevah
All rights reserved.
So the best place to start is nowhere near the beginning. No major disasters happened when I was a baby. True, I could have won an award for being the freakiest-looking mixed-up baby alive, but basically all I did was the usual icky pukey baby stuff and that was about it.
Later on, things got about a zillion times more interesting. So interesting, in fact, that it would have been better if I'd stayed icky and pukey and lived an easy life. Actually, no. Forget I said that. But at least babies don't come up with ingenious brain waves that lead to all kinds of trouble.
You know how sometimes you get an idea? And then you follow that idea and complicate your life so badly that you wish it had never popped into your head? Yeah. That's what happened. Me and my genius ideas.
It's not all bad though. Something good came of it. Something amazing, actually. Something that changed my life.
But before I tell you about my idea, there are some things about me you should know or you just won't get what I'm talking about. So here goes.
My name is
AMBRA ALESSANDRA LEOLA KIMIKO MIYAMOHO
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. Obviously I don't use them all because it would take me about a month just to tell people what I'm called. Officially, my name is Ambra, which sounds fine in an Italian accent because the "m" sounds like you're chewing a toffee and you've got that roly-poly "r." But not when English people say it because they say Am bra. I am a bra. This is beyond embarrassing because I don't even need one yet.
So I use the English version of my name, which is Amber.
I have this crazy name because I'm half Italian and half Japanese. It's not easy to be half this and half that, especially two halves that are so completely different. I'm nearly twelve, and I live in South London with my mum and my little sister, Bella. My dad doesn't live with us. He was a Japanese computer science student and he met my mum at Kingston University. That's where the last name Miyamoto comes from (Japan, not Kingston University). But we don't see him anymore. Which is kind of what triggered this whole business.
But before I get to the messy stuff, you need to know more about my family or this just won't make any sense. It might not make any sense anyway, but at least you'll get the whole picture.
So for starters, my mum's name is Bob, and she's a graphic designer. Having a mother called Bob might seem embarrassing (and trust me, it is) but her full name is Roberta Fiorella Santececca Miyamoto, so Bob is actually an improvement.
Her hair is wild and curly, and she dyes it all shades from red to purple. She wears bright glittery dresses, big biker boots, and dangly earrings, and that's for Sunday afternoon shopping trips — you should see her when she's going out in the evening. And she has this colorful tattoo of a koi on her lower back. Koi is the Japanese name for a carp, but a carp sounds like a stupid thing to tattoo on your skin, and a koi sounds romantic and interesting. I think the tattoo was for my dad. Mum says it "symbolizes strength and determination" but I think it means something cheesy like "I love your fishy face" or "your soul is forever hooked to mine" or something.
My genius idea didn't have that much do with my mum. But it had everything to do with Bella.
She's six and she got lucky: my parents must have used up their entire list of hideous names on me because she's just Isabella, and they even shortened that. She was born in a Mini Cooper on the way to the hospital because she came out way too fast. My dad had to zip into a supermarket parking lot on the way to St George's and deliver her on the backseat, which is totally gross because we still own that car and I have to sit in it. I refuse to sit in the back though, unless Nonna (my grandma) is coming with us and then I have no choice. But Bella loves it and invites all her friends and teachers to come and see where she started out in the world. And now on every car trip, she counts the other Mini Coopers on the road and thinks that's how many babies have been born since we left the house. So, unlike me, she came out in a weird way and has carried on being weird ever since.
Bella's seriously obsessed with pink, but don't think she's some cute fairy princess because she isn't. She's super bossy and molto embarrassing. (Molto is the Italian word for "very" — these words just pop out from time to time.) She likes playing dress-up when we go out, even to the shop up the road, and always asks a zillion random questions. She makes me take her to the park to feed the ducks and tells them stories in a really loud voice so you wish you'd never agreed to take her. And when she's going to sleep, she picks her nose and wipes it on the wall, which means she has boogers stuck right next to her head. That is right up there with the top ten most disgusting things I have ever seen.
I'm warning you: the heartbreaking part is coming up so if you don't like sad stuff you can go off and watch TV or something.
If you're still reading, this is what happened.
When I was six years old and Bella was one, my dad left home and never came back. I don't know why. Maybe Mum and Dad had a big fat argument. Maybe they had lots of them; I don't remember. And that was the end of that.
I have no idea where my dad is now. I don't even know if he's alive or dead because he never writes and he never calls. He doesn't turn up to see our school plays or take us to the zoo on Sundays like other dads who have left home. He doesn't send us birthday cards even though he obviously knows when our birthdays are because he was there when we were born. He just left one night without saying good-bye and I haven't seen him since.
Mum doesn't like to talk about it. When I bring it up, she makes a face and says it's complicated and she'll explain when I'm older because until then, I just won't get it. It makes his departure kind of mysterious but in a bad way. Even if I don't get it, I'd still like to try because not knowing makes you imagine all kinds of things.
Maybe he spent all his time playing computer games so Mum strangled him and chucked his body in the River Thames.
Or the Japanese mafia kidnapped and tortured him for hacking into their secret website.
He might have got a big bonk on the head, lost his memory, and he's wandering around somewhere trying to remember who he is and where he lives.
He could have run off with Miss Cronin, my first-grade teacher, because she left at about the same time. They say she went to another school but who knows?
Or maybe he was just cold and heartless and had no love to give so he went to live in a cave for the rest of his grumpy life and now he's a weird, twisted creature like Gollum in The Hobbit.
I'm sure the truth is far less exciting than all the things I imagine when I lie in bed.
I tried googling him once but I wasn't sure if any of the people who came up were really him. It kind of creeped me out, and then Mum walked into the room so I closed the page veloce. It felt so icky and weird to do an Internet search for him that I haven't done it again, and anyway, I don't know what I'd actually do if I found him. He's not exactly my hero or anything. I'm pretty angry with him if you must know.
I can't understand how he doesn't care about us at all. He must wonder how we're doing, or how big we are now. Sometimes, when I'm walking down the road, I look behind me in case he's following me, wearing dark glasses to disguise himself. Or I check the trees in the park to see if he's hiding behind one, peeking out to see if I'm doing okay.
Worst of all, when I see Japanese men on the Tube (that's what the subway is called in London), I stare at them, wondering if they're my dad. I know what my dad looks like from photos and everything, but maybe he changed: grew a pointy beard, got fatter, got taller, changed his nose with plastic surgery, or something. Then I realize it's almost definitely not him because the man I'm staring at is, like, seventy and probably can't speak any English, and I know my dad is thirty-five and can.
My dad leaving feels like there's this massive black hole in me, like the ones up there in space. It twists in a dark, silent spiral, super heavy, sucking some of the good things in and swallowing them up. I don't know why it bothers me so much when I've lived nearly half my life without him but there are times when that black hole crushes me from the inside. But that's only sometimes.
It's molto sad and everything but that's what happened. Nothing's perfect in this life, or so my mum keeps telling me. So now you know a bit about me, I can tell you how I got my genius idea and this whole crazy story started.CHAPTER 2
It was the last day of summer break, and I was starting Spit Hill Middle School the next morning. I can't say I was massively excited about going into middle school. There were loads of big loud scary kids in there — I used to see them coming out of the gate sometimes and getting on the bus. The girls looked even more dangerous than the boys. And in a few hours I was going to be walking through those gates myself. I was really freaking out about it. Maybe that's why I got the idea in the first place. Panic can make you do insane things — that's all I can say.
So that was the day Mum asked me go and pick up Bella from her friend's birthday party. It wasn't far, just a few streets past the park. The whole way I was stressing about the disasters that could happen in school. What if no one liked me and everyone made new friends except me?
There were twenty-eight kids in my class in elementary school, and only twelve of them were girls. They were okay, and I hung out with them because I didn't really have much choice, but they weren't majorly good friends or anything. None of them liked art. Most of the boys were annoying and the three that were almost okay were going to other schools. So I really needed this middle school thing to work out. I was seriously hoping to make some new friends.
Because it was a new school and everything, it flashed across my mind to pretend I was someone else. I could say I was an orphan and my parents adopted me from Korea. Or that my father was a rock star, and I flew to LA every summer to hang out in my heart-shaped pool. But kids from my elementary school would be there, and they'd wreck my story. Everyone would laugh at me. Making a good first impression on your first day is important. If you mess up then, everyone ignores or ridicules you for the next seven years.
I nearly walked straight past Bella's friend's house because I was stressing so much. As soon as I stepped in the front door I saw Bella: you couldn't miss her. She was wearing this huge puffy pink party dress, white shiny shoes, and pink and white ribbons in her hair. She looked like a giant marshmallow. It was hard to believe we were even related. Her pigtails were bouncing up in the air, and she had chocolate smeared all over her mouth, her dress — everywhere.
I really didn't want to hold her sticky, chocolatey hands so I asked the party girl's mother if I could clean Bella up before we left. Seriously, if you had seen those hands you wouldn't have touched them either. But that might be just me. Me and muck have this thing. We just don't get along.
Once I'd washed her hands the best I could with her wriggling like an eel, I told Bella to wait outside so I could, you know, use the bathroom.
When I came out she was crying and rubbing her head.
"What happened?" I asked.
"That stupid Tommy Pyke," she wailed. "He ran up the stairs and pushed me over and I banged my head on the wall."
Tommy Pyke was only seven or something but he was molto violent, and he kept being mean to Bella. The first time was just after he joined our school, when he pulled her hair really hard and made her cry. Then he started tripping her on the playground and taking things out of her pencil case and throwing them at other kids in the class.
When we walked to the front door to leave the party, Tommy Pyke poked his head around the kitchen door and grinned. I took Bella's hand and gave him my evil death stare. That usually works on Bella, but he just stuck his tongue out at me and ran away.
On the way back home, with me holding Bella's hand which was now a bit clean but not extremely, we passed the playground.
A man was sitting in the sandpit playing with a little girl. The girl was only about two. She was pouring sand out of a plastic cup and talking to herself. Doing that at my age would be a molto stupido thing to do, and I was busy thinking about that when Bella stopped walking. She stood still, turned to the side, and looked at the little girl and her dad. She was still holding my hand and everything, but she just stood there watching them.
I tried to pull her away, but she didn't budge.
"Bella!" I said. "Come on, will you?"
But Bella didn't say anything. She just stood there, staring.
The little girl climbed all over her dad's legs, smearing sandy footprints on his trousers. It would have really bothered me but he didn't seem to mind. Then she plonked herself onto his lap. The little girl rested her head on her dad's chest, and he put his arms around her and stroked her hair.
Bella stood there gazing at them. I had to stand there too because I couldn't let go of her: I'd promised Mum I'd hold Bella's hand all the way home and I knew Mum would check. So we watched the man and his little girl, which is a weird thing to do if you think about it. The man looked up and his face was, like, "What?" but he didn't say anything.
I glanced at Bella, trying to figure out what she was doing. And then I saw it.
It was huge.
A gigantic, fat tear leaked out of Bella's left eye and rolled in slow motion all the way down her cheek until it fell off her chin and onto her marshmallow dress. Then another tear followed from her right eye.
I knew exactly what Bella was thinking: that little girl could sit on her daddy's lap, but Bella couldn't because she didn't have a daddy.
So I said, "Come on, Bella. Let's go."
And we walked home slowly, in silence.
The flat was quiet when we got in. Mum had a deadline, so she was working on her laptop in the sitting room. She told us to get something to drink until she finished, but Bella went to her room and I went to mine. I didn't even draw — and I always draw, especially when I feel bad. But I just lay on my bed and stared at the ceiling.
My room was pretty small, but at least I didn't have to share with Bella. Under the window was my desk with my drawing materials, which was my favorite place in the entire universe. On the right was my bed, a chest of drawers, and a small wardrobe. The walls were painted pale blue, and there were stars all over my duvet and pillow covers. When I turned off the lights, the glow-in-the-dark comets and planets on the ceiling shone. I loved my room. But even being in there didn't make me feel any better.
Mum finished her work and called us to come out. She made scrambled eggs for dinner but the gunk on our plates looked more like clumps of wet toilet paper. Bella and I sat at the small table in the kitchen and stared at it. Neither of us felt hungry. Mum could tell something was wrong because we were both so quiet and Bella's the most unquiet person in the world.
After a while, Mum said, "Oh, come on. The eggs aren't that bad."
But it wasn't the food.
Not this time.
I looked at Bella. She was staring at the plate and her lips were twitching like she was going to cry any second.
And even though she was a complete pain in the butt, I felt sorry for her because now she knew what the black hole felt like — the one my dad left behind when he vamoosed. Maybe she'd felt it a bit before, but the man in the park made her realize what I had known all along. Something major was missing. There was just this humongous hole where our dad was supposed to be. Someone we had completely trusted and loved had left us suddenly and never come back.
A thing like that can make you feel really small. And I didn't want to feel any smaller. It was bad enough wearing clothes for nine- to ten-year-olds when I was nearly twelve.
"Was the party that bad?" Mum asked, reaching across the table and lifting Bella's chin up. "Did Molly's mother lock you all in a cupboard? Because that's not a bad idea. We could do that at your party, Bella."
I didn't smile and neither did Bella. I knew Bella was thinking about the little girl in the park and so was I.
That little girl had a dad and we didn't.
He'd love her and look after her.
He'd make sure she didn't get bullied by nasty boys.
Excerpted from Dream On, Amber by Emma Shevah. Copyright © 2014 Emma Shevah. Excerpted by permission of Sourcebooks, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
One — Uno — Ichi,
Two — Due — Ni,
Three — Tre — San,
Four — Quattro — Shi,
Five — Cinque — Go,
Six — Sei — Roku,
Seven — Sette — Shichi,
Eight — Otto — Hachi,
Nine — Nove — Ku,
Ten — Dieci — Ju,
Eleven — Undici — Ju Ichi,
Twelve — Dodici — Ju Ni,
Thirteen — Tredici — Ju San,
Fourteen — Quattordici — Ju Shi,
Fifteen — Quindici — Ju Go,
Sixteen — Sedici — Ju Roku,
Seventeen — Diciassette — Ju Shichi,
Eighteen — Diciotto — Ju Hachi,
Nineteen — Diciannove — Ju Ku,
Twenty — Venti — Ni Ju,
Twenty-One — Ventuno — Ni Ju Ichi,
Twenty-Two — Ventidue — Ni Ju Ni,
Twenty-Three — Ventitré — Ni Ju San,
Twenty-Four — Ventiquattro — Ni Ju Shi,
Twenty-Five — Venticinque — Ni Ju Go,
Twenty-Six — Ventisei — Ni Ju Roku,
Twenty-Seven — Ventisette — Ni Ju Shichi,
Twenty-Eight — Ventotto — Ni Ju Hachi,
Twenty-Nine — Ventinove — Ni Ju Ku,
Thirty — Trenta — San Ju,
Thirty-One — Trentuno — San Ju Ichi,
Thirty-Two — Trentadue — San Ju Ni,
Thirty-Three — Trentatré — San Ju San,
Thirty-Four — Trentaquattro — San Ju Shi,
About the Author,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
One of my favorites.
THIS BOOK has sadness happiness and humor i love this book
Showed like charictoristics and accomplishments!! I LOVE it!!
Amber is a half-Japanese, half-Italian little girl with a sister and mother who deal with life after her Japanese father abandons the family. This is a very realistic story dealing with this eleven year old's life and feelings. Amber is a wonderful big sister to Bella. She protects her from bullies and tries to help her deal with the feelings she has for their father. Amber deals with a lot in her life, she is somewhat an outcast due to her size and tries very hard to make friends. she loves art, but does not want to let anyone see her drawings. I'm a big proponent of Middle Grade books that children can identify with. I also loved that this book dealt with diverse characters. Stories like this are important for Middle grade students especially those who may be dealing with the loss of a parent for any reason. I enjoyed the story but felt that some of the important things were glossed over like the bullying incident and some of Amber's feelings as well as her mother. I would still recommend this book to school and public libraries to add to their collection of middle grade novels especially for girls. I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Though Dream On, Amber succeeds at appealing young readers alike, this rather perplexing narrative left me ambivalent. And while it is not a bad book per se, it is not a great one either. Having said that, my main quibble with this book was with the aggressive behaviors and cruel undertones; thus, I did no enjoy it in particular, nor can I recommend it ― my feelings are complicated with this one ___________________________________________ WHAT I LIKED: + The writing is sensible, simplistic and engaging enough to pull the reader in. The transitions are not abrupt, and the pacing is smooth. Too, the first person narration works! Amber’s voice is full of excitement and zeal + In hindsight, Dream On, Amber is a story about two sisters who learn to cope with the fact that their father has abandoned them and the family. I would have to say that the sisterhood is perhaps the central theme to the story. The relationship between this duo was strongly detailed with all their bickering, their uneasiness, their grief, and affection. Additionally, I thought the diversity in the characters was interesting and I liked the realistic family dynamics WHAT I DIDN’T LIKED: - The plot had a strong start and was peppered with intriguing elements, but as the story moved along the plot inconsistencies seemed to abandon those elements along the way. For instance, the book doesn’t identify why the father in this family scenario has left nor do we see any resolve on the matter. Add to this, an ending that felt incredibly forced ― I just couldn’t embrace the story - My biggest gripe with Dream On, Amber was with the actual protagonist, Amber. Albeit, Amber is tough and some of her quirks are endearing, but her overly abrasive and spiteful aggression was a huge let down for me. Together with that, she is bratty, ungrateful and walks in a self-deserving tendency. Granted, her situation is reason enough to sympathize with her emotional distress and broken heart, but the lack of empathy to her character arc made her an unlikeable character for me. To be fair, there was one-act in particular where Amber’s humanity did come to life; however, that aside, all her other actions come across as insensitive and you can’t help but to sit utterly appalled and offended to say the least - Because Dream On, Amber touches on sensitive issues like divorce, neglect, bullying, and desertion, none of the characters actually confront the subject matters at hand. The book would have succeeded remarkably had Amber’s mother actually stepped in to help her find some resolve and assurance, but no. Instead, Amber’s mother continually swept the issue under the rug ― I was dumbfounded with the lack of support in this area. To make matters worse, Amber resorts to venting her frustrations by antagonizing her younger sister, retaliating through bitter desires, and obsessing over graphic novels and drawings. I mean that in a literal sense, Amber illustrates and fantasizes over a bloody battlefield in detail! Clearly, this is more than enough angst to raise concern and to know that a child is crying out for help! AFTERTHOUGHTS: I do empathize with having to grow up without a father (I did!), but as a parent, my concern is that this book will influence imitative behavior in young readers and I strongly believe that this is a story that will not only feed into the bitterness in their hearts but possibly even open wounds that have already been healed. In other words, Dream On, Amber is not a