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Williams, Vera B.
AMBER WAS BRAVE, ESSIE WAS SMART : THE STORY OF AMBER AND ESSIE TOLD HERE IN POEMS AND PICTURES
New York : Greenwillow, 2001
IL 3-6, RL 5.4
ISBN 0060294612
In this poignant prose poem of two very young girls living in poverty, Vera B. Williams takes young readers to places they may not have been before:  into a poverty-stricken urban apartment where sisters Essie and Amber must feed and entertain themselves in the absence of their working mother.  Williamsís illustrations, however, temper some of the sadness that the story expresses.  The black and white sketches interspersed throughout the chapters, as well as the colorful portraits of the girls and their family at the beginning and end of the book help to lighten the mood.  The honesty of Amber Was Brave, Essie Was Smart will leave readers pondering long after they close its pages.
 I recently read Amber Was Brave, Essie Was Smart with a five-year old British child who is very well loved and cared for.  Naomi couldn't imagine her parents ever leaving her alone and said that if her mother hadn't enough money for a baby-sitter, she would very nicely ask a neighbor to keep her and her brothers until she could come home.  Although the idea of being too poor to afford a baby-sitter was almost beyond this child's imagination, I was glad that Williamsís written portraits of these two little girls were able to reach into Naomiís world just enough to make her realize that many children are not as blessed or as wealthy as she is and that many poor children's parents have many fewer options than hers.  Williams deserves praise for her gentle but realistic portrayal of the lives of two sisters who have little more than one another.
Prepared by: Dr. Michelle Martin for South Carolina Children's Book Award
SUBJECTS:     Sisters -- Poetry.
                        American poetry.

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