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Amber Was Brave, Essie Was Smart: The Story Of Amber And Essie Told Here In Poems And Pictures

3.90  ·  Rating Details  ·  199 Ratings  ·  47 Reviews
With the voices of two individual, but loving sisters resonating through these poignant, interconnected poems the narrative of their difficult, but hopeful lives unfolds with warmth, clarity and humor. Struggling to get through their days with a father in jail and a mother who works long hours, the two young girls find both joy and sorrow in their daily lives - and loving ...more
Published (first published 2001)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 390)
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529_Gary
This book of poetry is about how two sisters deal with the loss of having their father go to jail. The father goes to jail because he forged a check from his former employer. Amber and Essie find comfort in each other and they take care of each other. The poem "Best Sandwich" tells about how the sister cuddle up and comfort each other until their mother came home from work. While their mother is at work, she has different people take care of the girls on different days. The people that take care ...more
Elizabeth
I would like to give this one ten stars. The description may not sound promising -- the story of two little girls whose father is in prison, told in poems and illustration -- but this was just lovely. Both of my daughters (seven and three) loved it, although I thought it might be too boring for the three year old and too young for the seven year old. The subject matter is challenging but delivered in an entirely age-appropriate way, and the relationship between the sisters is funny and sweet and ...more
Alyssa Paulson
This book was filled with free-verse poems about two sisters, Essie and Amber. There were great illustrations throughout that were created with colored pencils. This would be a great book to read a few of the poems at a time, as you could go back to it any time. There were some poems that talked about what the sisters would do together to keep company when their parents were away. Also, throughout the book, there were poems about how Essie was brave (in many ways), as well as how Amber was smart ...more
 (NS) Amie
Oct 29, 2009 (NS) Amie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Essie and her little sister Amber live in a small apartment with their mom, who works all of the time. Their father is in prison for forging a check. If their not being watched by their neighbor or cousin, they are taking care of themselves. Essie is smart because she loves to read, knows how to double tie her sister's shoes and can make the small amount of food they have into a meal. Amber is brave because she is not afraid of rats, climbing up high and asking the grocery man for milk even thou ...more
Katy
May 19, 2016 Katy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
This book is the story of two very close sisters written in poems and pictures by Vera B. Williams. The poetry is written in free verse and beautifully chronicles the girls’ relationship as they go through good times and bad. The poem called “Best Sandwich” describes how Amber and Essie cuddle together with Amber’s bear Wilson in the middle in a way that touches ones heart in the deepest way. Through these poems and pictures the reader gets a sense of what an honest and loving relationship betw ...more
Lauma
Feb 23, 2010 Lauma rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A verse novel, told in poems and drawings, tenderly tells a story about two young sisters in a struggling family. Money is scarce, their father is in jail for forgery, the mother works long hours, and the girls are often left to take care of each other. They have an especially close relationship as each helps the other get through these trying times, "When they did 'Best Sandwich' it turned the room friendly from strange..." The author's touching versus gently guide this story to a happy conclus ...more
L- Lisa
This Jane Addams award winner describes the strength and love of two sisters, faced with difficulties as their mother works long hours and their father is in jail. The third person verse describes the girl’s personalities and relationship with each other and the neighbors. The narrator creates a view of the strong bond of love between these sisters during heart wrenching and funny moments. Their special bond carries them through this sad situation, allowing them to remain hopeful. The colored pe ...more
Laurie
May 23, 2016 Laurie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I though it was very interesting on how the author put this story together by telling it through poems and pictures they were kind of touching. The illustrator of the book created the pictures by using black pencils sketches throughout the book and at the back it shows some colorful pictures that the illustrator did of Amber,Essie and her mom which are very detailed. It talked about how the family was poor and the mother had to work two jobs to make ends meet and dad had lost his job and started ...more
Karen C.
"Amber Was Brave, Essie Was Smart" by Vera B. Williams tells the story of two sisters who find comfort in each other when their father is sent to jail. With their mother working most of the time, they take care of each other, and try to make the most of their time. They also have relatives, and neighbors caring for them when their mom is at work. The story is told through poems and illustrations. The illustrations are beautifully made in color pencil. At the beginning and at the end there are il ...more
Courtney Dyer
Author Vera B. Williams takes readers through the ups and downs of life for two sisters in Amber Was Brave, Essie Was Smart. Written as a verse novel, the series of poem vignettes capture their relationship and everyday lives in an absolutely heartwarming story.

Amber was brave… she wasn’t afraid of the rat in the wall or of climbing up in high places. Essie was smart… she could read hard library books, thread a needle, and cook toasted cheese sandwiches. Times are tough… Momma works all of the t
...more
Taylor Winnix
May 02, 2016 Taylor Winnix rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: wow-books
Amber was Brave, Essie was smart compared completely two different characters while analyzing the effect of their friendship as a whole. How can this not be confusing? The author did a wonderful job with separating each character. In saying this, the Vera Williams was able to create two different characters within one story. Amber and Essie are sisters going through difficult times. Amber even talks about cutting her hair to send to her father in one of the poems. Overall, this book describes ma ...more
Ben
Jul 06, 2008 Ben rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: with-my-daughter
A real good sister book.
(NS) Dana
Nov 17, 2009 (NS) Dana rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
Through a pastiche of poems and pictures presents an affecting portrait of two young sisters in a struggling family. In the opening entry, readers learn why older Essie is smart while her sister Amber is brave Gradually, readers learn about the challenges they face: their mother works long hours, their father is in jail for check forgery, the radiator grows cold in the evenings and there is little food. Yet there are lighthearted moments, when the sister share rituals that fill them with laughte ...more
Paul  Hankins
A tender book about two sisters who must get by the very best they can, sometimes staying alone while their mother has to go to work. "Sad Lullaby" is a image capture of a situation many single parents find themselves in--this having to address loneliness in the same solitary ways to keep the family unit moving forward.

Amber and Essie navigate their small home and their situation through games and songs and activities like making "Best Sandwich." Amber takes a turn at writing, and with some pro
...more
Robin
Apr 17, 2016 Robin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Re-read this one today. And wow, all over again. Such powerful, tender emotions. Amber and Essie's dad is in jail and their little family struggles to survive, with little money. They have invented ways to comfort and rely on each other. At times, it is barely enough. I love that Williams' focuses on the girl's strengths, on the way they find power, find hope, in the midst of powerlessness and hopelessness. Williams' seems to have a knack for touching the heart in all of her books.
Nichole Perez
Mar 23, 2012 Nichole Perez rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Verra Williams does a phenomenal job in writing this book. The reader is allowed to see the importance of family relationships. Although the there are problems within the family household, two sisters learn to lean on each other for support. I feel that every reader can relate to this story, everyone at one time or another has leaned on a family member(s) for moral or emotional support.

I feel that teachers need to expose children to books that depict real life situations, and that is exactly wh
...more
Katy
Nov 21, 2009 Katy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry

From AudioFile
Vera Williams zooms in on a moment of family difficulty and champions the inner strength of two sisters. In free verse accompanied by colored pencil drawings, Williams introduces Amber and Essie, who find solace in each other and support from the neighbors while their mother works and their father is temporarily away. With two accompanying narrators, Barbara Rosenblat captures the fragility of each sister and balances that with resiliency and humor. The interplay of the three voice
...more
Nancy
Nov 18, 2010 Nancy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Published: 2001, HarperCollins Publishers
Age: 7+

Amber and Essie are sisters who love each other very much. Their father was taken away to jail for forging a check. They are poor but happy together. Each chapter is a one page free verse poem that tells what a whole chapter would. It is sad but also happy because the girls find simple pleasures such as jumping on the bed, looking at the seeds in an apple, or playing beauty shop with their mother on her day off. When she is at work, a neighbor or r
...more
Sandy McDowell
Sep 22, 2013 Sandy McDowell rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Josephine Parry; Anna Craig
This is one of those books you read and feel like you've discovered something no else has ever heard of . . . My sister and I thought we'd discovered the movies "To Sir With Love" and "This Property Is Condemned."

So I came here to write about this great find, only to find that the others who recommended it loved the same things about it I did--and that feels even better somehow.

What to love: The relationship between sisters and especially the poem "Best Sandwich." And how the girls' feeling of
...more
Westerville
Re-read this one today. And wow, all over again. Such powerful, tender emotions. - Robin, Youth Services

Reserve a library copy.
Yasmin Gomez Geng
An interesting book with subtle clues about what is really happening in the story. Written in poem form, this book talks about the experiences of two girls as they go through a section of their young life.

Grade: 3rd Grade - 6th Grade
Topic: Sisters, Family, Life
Rachel Ferguson
reminds me of that poetry book I read for ya (KEEPING THE NIGHT WATCH) that was about the dad who was away and the oldest boy had a hard time when he came back. this one the two little girls have a hard time when their dad is away for forging a big check. k-3?
Jean
Apr 05, 2013 Jean rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I grew up in a town whose major industry was the state penitentiary. This book struck a chord with me because I had friends when I was young who could have been Amber and Essie. They lived in my town until their fathers were released from prison so they would be close enough to visit on visiting day. They were poor and often unsupervised. I remember spending the night with one of my friends and she showed me a dime her dad had given her. I ridiculed the small amount and hurt her feelings (sorry, ...more
Kelli
Dec 03, 2013 Kelli rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: osu-5225-au-2013
OSU 5225 AU 2013
Topic: Picturebook Poetry

This is a beautiful story about the struggles of living in poverty and living in a household with only one parent. I think a lot of kids could actually relate to this story, especially in today's society. I loved that although they knew they didn't have much, Amber and Essie still had each other to turn to and took care of each other when times were rough. I especially loved the way the verses were written. I would use this book in an upper elementary to
...more
Kris Patrick
Jan 12, 2016 Kris Patrick rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A back list gem. Not a lot of books out there that reflect the lives of children with incarcerated parents.
Jourdan Aanenson
this is a encouragine story about two sisters that are very different that yet are the same.

This true story of tow young sisters is a good book for children to read together in the classroom. They can relate with one another as well as disagree. This will help the students in the classroom cope with differences with one another as well as getting along and becoming friends. The pictures are awesome because there is very few of them and where they are at they are drawn with colored pencils with v
...more
Kara
Oct 21, 2009 Kara rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pbgs-nf
This is a book of poetry with a new one on each page, which would allow a lot of mini classes in the classroom, or prompts to write on. There are variations on the poems structure, which is nice to teach the different forms you can use. It also has pictures at the end of the book and some on the pages so kids can check what they are visualizing compared to what the author was thinking. The poems deal with hard issues, but from a kid's perspective, so could be easy for some students to make conne ...more
Janiece Whitehead
Amber Was Brave, Essie Was Smart by Vera B. Williams, is a book with series of poems that tell one story. I thought that was a very unique way of unfolding the story. The story of two young girls, their mother, and their father away in prison. The story is filled with hope, fights, sadness, confusion, the things that young girls go through when they are on the hunt for self expression. The bond between these sisters is what holds them together. It took me a while to actually get into the book bu ...more
Diana
Jun 21, 2008 Diana rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of those books which is perhaps more meaningful for the adults reading it than for the children. Amber and Essie are brave and resourceful sisters coping as only children can with very adult problems. Beautiful, moving, and tinged with sadness, but absolutely worth reading. My copy is hardcover and has beautiful colored pencil illustrations which I am not sure that the paperback has, but they add immeasurably to the whole tone of the book.
Kat B.
Apr 24, 2013 Kat B. rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This kids book of poems is about sisters whose family is going through hard times and the worlds they invent to survive it. Recommended to me because it deals with class in a real way. Rather than focus on what the girls don't have, the book illustrates the girls' life skills and strengths and the moments they create together. I would use this in a K-3 classroom or to read to any young one in my life!
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Graduate of Black Mountain College, North Carolina, where she majored in graphic art. In her own words, she has "done graphic art, school teaching, children-raising [she has two daughters and a son], has run a bakery and been a cook in schools and restaurants." (from back flap of book)

Vera B. Williams is the winner of the 2009 NSK Neustadt Prize for Children's Literature.

You can read much more ab
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