Recommended for ages 8-13
Dara Palmer was born to be a star: just ask her, she’ll tell you. But when she’s passed over – once again – for a part in the school play, The Sound of Music, Dara wonders whether it’s because she looks different. Was she passed over to be Maria because she doesn’t look like a typical fraulein? It’s not, as she learns: she just can’t act. Or rather, she overacts. But this episode starts Dara thinking about her life: about being Cambodian, about being an adoptee, and about not seeing any actresses or models who look like her. And then, it hits her: she’s going to write a play about her own life. Because she has to be the star of that, right?
Emma Shevah nails it again. I loved her voice as Amber in Dream On, Amber; here, she captures another tween who’s facing some big issues: realizing the world doesn’t revolve around her, and feeling like one person “on the inside” while looking like a different person “on the outside”. As an adoptee, she wonders about her birth parents and the circumstances that led her to the Happy Family home where she ended up, ultimately being adopted by her British family. As she becomes more aware of who she is – beyond her daydreams of marrying her British actor crush – she notices that no one looks like her in Hollywood, or on the covers of magazines, and this motivates her to action. She also realizes what fair-weather friends are, and handles it with a minimum of angst, which is beautifully done.
Dara Palmer’s Major Drama has received a starred review from School Library Journal. Booktalk this with Shevah’s first book, Dream On, Amber, and Nancy Cavanaugh’s Just Like Me. A great add to reading lists and collections all around for its discussions about adoption, diversity, and ethnicity.