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OUT & ABOUT Ventura | Page Turner

Forever Amber

Author is reintroducing the character to children in a series about divorce.


Paula Danziger wanted to be a teacher, a writer or a stand-up comic. Now she has the best of all three worlds.

"I get to do all of them in some ways with what I'm doing," said Danziger, an award-winning author of children's books. "I can go out and speak and talk to the kids and I get to write. When it's going well, it's exciting, and when it's not going well, it's part of the process."

Danziger will discuss her Amber Brown books at Adventures for Kids in Ventura next week.

Amber is up to the fourth grade in the earlier series, but Danziger is taking her back to the second grade to introduce her to younger readers. The latest book is "A is for Amber" (G.P. Putnam's & Sons, $12.99).

Danziger's other books are still in print, going back to 1974 with "The Cat Who Ate My Gymsuit." Other books include those in the Matthew Martin series.

She said in a phone interview that her ideas come from observation, experience and imagination. Though Danziger is single and has no children, her brother and sister-in-law are willing to lend theirs.

She also travels far afield from her New York home.

She did a segment on the BBC in England for a while, talking about books and interviewing other writers. One of them was Dick Kingsmith, who wrote the book that became the movie "Babe." Danziger met up with him at a pig farm. Unfortunately, she is allergic to animals, she said, laughing.

Danziger's latest series deals with divorce. In the earlier books, Amber's parents separate and divorce--the separation is worked in now.

Danziger said Amber is spunky--a survivor who may not like or understand what is happening but is able to talk about it. In later books, Amber manipulates her father to let her get her ears pierced. She can be sly, and Danziger noted that parents don't have to be divorced for kids to manipulate them.

"I'm used to writing longer books," Danziger said. "I didn't know it would be so hard to write an easy-to-read. But I got to bring back Justin, whom I adore and who got lost in earlier books because he moved away." Justin is Amber's best friend.

Danziger connected with a group of second-graders in Austin, Texas, when their teacher, Sheryl Hardin, e-mailed her in preparation for a classroom visit. The students answered questions for one of her upcoming books and now she refers to them as her consultants.

"I love wonderful teachers, the ones that make kids feel special," Danziger said. "Sheryl calls the kids 'the Brainy Bunch.' "

Danziger, who grew up in a house with books, was read to as a child. Kids will read if their families read, she said.

She is pleased that kids think it's cool to read the Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowlings. Her own share of success included the 1999 Jeremiah Luddington Memorial Award from the Education Paperback Assn.

The inscription on the award was one she enjoyed reading aloud: "For giving time so generously to get kids excited about reading, for writing with wit, with humor and understanding of how they feel, for living with a flamboyance and flair that awakens the adventurous spirit in readers of all ages."


* Monday: 4-5:30 p.m. Paula Danziger will discuss and sign "It's Justin Time," "Amber Brown" and "What a Trip, Amber Brown." Adventures for Kids, 3457 Telegraph Road, Ventura 650-9688.

* Tuesday: 1-4 p.m. Syndicated columnist Chris Redgate will discuss "Barbarians at the Gate: The History of English." Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center. Call Roseanne Savo at 491-3387.

* Tuesday: 7 p.m. The First Tuesday Contemporary Book Group will focus on "Jane Eyre" by Charlotte Bronte. Borders, 125 W. Thousand Oaks Blvd., Thousand Oaks, 497-8159.

* Wednesday: 7 p.m. Mary Palevsky will discuss and sign "Atomic Fragments: A Daughter's Questions." Borders, 497-8159.

* Thursday: 1-4 p.m. Syndicated columnist Chris Redgate will discuss "From Barf to Garbology: Words & Their Funky Origins." Thousand Oaks Barnes & Noble, 160 S. Westlake Blvd., Thousand Oaks, 446-2820.

* Friday: 1 p.m. Imagination: A Creativity Workshop uses the core book "The New Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain" by Betty Edwards. Borders, 497-8159.

Plan Ahead: April 7, 11 a.m. Children's poet Joan Bransfield Graham, author of "Splish Splash" and "Flicker Flash," offers an interactive poetry morning for children in grades two through five. Thousand Oaks Barnes & Noble, 446-2820.


Information about book signings, writers groups and publishing events can be e-mailed to or faxed to 647-5649.

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