Ambra Alessandra Leola Kimiko Miyamoto is about to move up into year 7, something that’s hard enough for most kids, but which is particularly difficult for her. Ambra is tiny, much smaller than the average year 7, half Italian, half Japanese, and finds making friends tricky. Even her ‘cavegirl’ mobile phone is letting her down. School doesn’t start well when, by the end of the first week, she’s managed to make an enemy of the scariest girl in her year. On top of that, Ambra has problems at home. Her father left the family when her little sister, Bella, was just two years old, and they’ve had no contact since. When Ambra finds Bella writing a letter to their missing dad, she decides she’ll help by writing back, soon realising what a mistake that was. It’s another huge worry for a girl who worries even more than most.
This may sound very glum – we are very aware of how anxious Ambra is – but this is definitely not a gloomy read. The tone and the tempo keep it all light, and little sister Bella provides opportunity for humour. Attention has been paid to the design too, with illustrations brightening every page.
Lots of children will understand how Ambra feels, and recognise her descriptions of the black hole that swirls about her when she thinks about her dad. It feels very true, the author is writing from personal experience and indeed, the book is dedicated to all children growing up without a father.
Shevah gives Ambra a happy ending: her drawing wins a competition at school; the boy who makes her heart flutter wants to be her friend; the awful mess she’s got herself into with Bella resolves itself, her little sister turning out to be much smarter than Ambra thinks. She even gets a proper mobile phone. Her dad doesn’t come home though. This book is too honest for that.