Amber Was Brave, Essie Was Smart

by Vera B. Williams

Amber and her older sister, Essie, must rely on each other. Their mother is at work,... read more

Amber and her older sister, Essie, must rely on each other. Their mother is at work, there’s little to eat, and not much to play with other than Wilson the Bear and, of course, each other. There’s Amber’s question: “Tell me just one more time, Essie . . . Where is Daddy?” The sisters try to wrap their minds around the fact that forging a check is the same as stealing, because that’s why there’s such a big family secret. Williams has created a unique narrative embedded in 28 brief, unrhymed poems. An unusually skilled writer, Williams tenderly characterizes two children who know, and also don’t realize, how fragile their family’s well-being has become. The text is preceded and followed by an “album” of paintings, and occasional drawings can be found amidst the poems. A gifted painter, Williams uses the album, drawings, and delicately placed rainbow colors to further explore the emotions of a loving, beleaguered little family. In this unforgettable volume, she’s created a new form, checked sentimentality at the door, and provided an example of how love and the human spirit are the emotional furniture where children can rest. Winner, CCBC Newbery Award Discussion (Ages 7–11)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2002

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