Amber Brown Is Not A Crayon is the first book in the Amber Brownseries. Amber Brown is in 3rd grade and dealing with the fact that her best friend, Justin, is going to be moving away soon. It’s a surprisingly deep story of loss in a short book easily accessible to young readers.
SPOILER ALERT: Things you might want to know before suggesting this to your kid
This novel defies several stereotypes. Justin and Amber are best friends and have been for years, despite the fact that Justin is a boy and Amber is a girl. Amber is messy, forgetful, and a bit aggressive. Their wonderful 3rd grade teacher is a man. The book doesn’t make a big deal about any of these things, but after you’ve read a ton of books for young readers, they stand out as unusual.
Amber’s parents are divorced and her father has moved to another country. She almost never sees him. Justin’s father has moved away for a job while the rest of the family stays behind until they can sell the house. The mothers are good friends and have counted on each other to help out with watching kids—this move is going to be hard on all of them.
Dealing With Loss
Once it becomes clear that Justin is moving, Amber starts to grieve for the loss of her best friend. They get in a fight because Justin isn’t reacting the way that Amber wants him to. Amber isolates herself because she feels like no one understands what she’s going through. Eventually her mother pushes her to talk about it, and she cries. She realizes that Justin will miss her and is scared about the move, but he doesn’t show it in the same way she does. She and Justin make up before he leaves, and she starts thinking about how they’re going to stay in touch.
Some of the kids call each other names like “Rat Rear” and “Tuna Head.” It’s mostly harmless, though intended to tease. No one gets in trouble for it. Amber is teased for her name—it’s an issue that bothers her, but mostly in the novel it serves to add to her isolation when she’s not talking to Justin.
I’m really glad to see a book about loss that doesn’t feel the need to kill anyone. Raising my kids in a college town where people move in and out all the time, this is an experience I’ve frequently seen my kids deal with. I like that there’s a simple and mostly funny book to deal with this issue. It’s suitable for ages 8 or so and up.