Lights, Camera, Amalee (Dar Williams Series)

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9781455810284: Lights, Camera, Amalee (Dar Williams Series)

When Amalee’s grandmother dies, she inherits a very strange object: a huge champagne bottle filled with over a thousand dollars’ worth of change. Amalee is told to spend the money on something important, so she decides to make a movie about endangered species. Soon there’s as much going on behind the scenes as there is in front of the camera, as Amalee deals with a new friend, a very cute older boy, her wacky family friends, and other challenges. She also discovers something she never expected to find — a link with her mother, who disappeared and died when Amalee was very little. Behind the camera, Amalee comes to understand that the past can never be changed. But the future? Well, that’s another story.... “Williams conveys middle-school insecurities with a sure hand, and Amalee’s narration is a treat to listen to.” —Horn Book

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About the Author:

Dar Williams is one of the most acclaimed singer-songwriters of her generation. Her albums include My Better Self, The Beauty of the Rain, Out There Live, The Green World, End of the Summer, Mortal City, and The Honesty Room. She lives in New York City. Amalee is her first novel.

Review:

Kirkus
Amalee returns in a revealing sequel (to Amalee, 2004), somewhat older, wiser and more self-assured. Now 12, she's invited to meet her maternal grandmother for the first time, several days before the woman's death. Estranged from her deceased mother's family and interested in learning more about the parent she never knew, Amalee responds to the invitation with trepidation and curiosity. The meeting leads to an inheritance of over $2,000 in coins kept in an oversized champagne bottle with instructions to use the money for a personal interest. Amalee makes a documentary short film on the importance of maintaining the natural ecosystems and learns more about human relationships within her own network of friends, former school enemies and family. Williams interweaves elements of environmental science, film production, first crushes and the very normal emotional growth of a tween's initial understanding of a mother's alcoholism and subsequent early demise. While the story gets a bit tedious with all the filming/script/editing dialogue, and less adventurous than Carl Hiaasen's environmentally themed Hoot (2002), this is still a multilayered work, offering a well-developed protagonist who has grown into a sincere, genuine, caring adolescent.

HB
Dar Williams Lights, Camera, Amalee
311 pp. Scholastic 6/06 ISBN 0-439-80352-7 $16.99
(Intermediate, Middle School)
When Amalee's grandmother dies, she leaves Amalee a huge bottle of coins, with the hope that they will help Amalee pursue her nascent "interest in the world." With the money -- almost three thousand dollars -- twelve-year-old Amalee decides to make a documentary about endangered species. While the information about film-making and extinction slows things just a tad, the details mainly add interest and verisimilitude to the story. The message about saving the planet is clear but not heavy-handed, and the connection between repairing damage done to the earth and repairing the damage of broken-off friendships is subtly made. Williams conveys middle-school insecurities with a sure hand, and Amalee's narration is a treat to read. For example, her dad's stories about her long-gone mom remind her "of apple peels that you try to peel off in one long coil. If I interrupted...he would change the subject, and I would only hear bits of information. It felt much better to get the long stories, the whole peel." While it stands alone just fine, this sequel to Amalee (rev. 7/04) will be most appreciated by readers who have been waiting for more about the girl who, last they heard, had bravely survived both her father's serious illness and the substantial indignities of sixth grade. J.M.B.

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Williams, Dar
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