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Review of Dara Palmer’s Major Drama

shevah_dara-palmerDara Palmer’s Major Drama
by Emma Shevah; illus. by Helen Crawford-White
Intermediate    Sourcebooks Jabberwocky    282 pp.
7/16    978-1-4926-3138-5    $16.99    g

Though not a sequel to Shevah’s first novel, Dream On, Amber, this book is set at the same British elementary school and features another memorable narrator. Fifth grader Dara is genuinely gobsmacked when she isn’t given the part of Maria in the school performance of The Sound of Music. Is it because evil Miss Snarling, er, Snelling doesn’t think an Asian girl would make a good Austrian nun? Nope — Dara actually doesn’t get any part (except a spot in the choir) because it turns out she isn’t the extremely talented actor she thinks she is. Dara’s eventual realizations that acting is more than making dramatic faces and that it involves putting oneself in another’s shoes help her become a better actor along with a better friend and sister. Her older brother, kind and perceptive, is their parents’ biological son; her younger sister was adopted from Russia; Dara, adopted from Cambodia, hates sticking out like a sore thumb in her otherwise white family. With themes of transracial adoption, racism, identity, friendship, and sibling rivalry (not to mention a hyperactively decorated page design), there’s a lot going on here, but Shevah’s novel raises interesting questions without attempting to neatly answer them all. Self-absorbed Dara isn’t always likable, but her emotional growth is believable and appealing, and her super-chatty narration is never not funny.

From the July/August 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

About Jennifer M. Brabander

Jennifer M. Brabander is former senior editor of The Horn Book Magazine.

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