Synopses & Reviews
From acclaimed singer-songwriter Dar Williams, the story of a girl trying to figure out her place in the world . . . and in her neighborhood.
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 a host of other challenges. She also discovers something she never expected to find -- a link with her mother, who disappeared and died when she was very little.
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.
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.
When Amalee's grandmother dies, she inherits a huge champagne bottle filled with more than 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 in this follow-up to "Amalee."
After receiving an inheritance from her grandmother and instructed to do something special with the money, young Amalee decides to make a film about endangered animals in order to help their cause, yet during the process she learns a lot about herself, falls in love with a member of the crew, and discovers something special about her mother who passed away when she was just a little girl.
About the Author
Dar Williams is one of the most acclaimed singer-songwriters in America right now. Her albums include The Honesty Room, Mortal City, End of the Summer, The Green World, The Beauty of the Rain, and My Better Self.
Her first novel, Amalee, was published by Scholastic Press in 2004 and was a poignant, funny debut” by Booklist. The follow-up, Lights, Cameras, Amalee, is being published in June 2006.
Dar Williams lives in New York.