Title: The Pearl Harbor Diary of Amber BillowsThe Pearl Harbor Diary of Amber Billows
Author: Barry Denenberg
Pages: 154
Recommended Ages: 9-12
Star Rating: ★★★★

From the Dear America series.

The Story.

Amber Billows starts a new journal every time her family moves – and it seems likes she’s always starting a new journal! Her father is a reporter, so his job is stable, but it keeps their family in an uproar. Every time she begins settling into a new school and finds a best friend, she is yanked out and forced to go through the whole circus again. And again. And again…

But this time, when her father announces that their family is moving, it’s a double whammy, because not only are they moving next week, they’re moving to Oahu, Hawaii! His employees seem to think that with the European war spreading into the Pacific, there may be some news to report from that area. But all that’s there is a U.S. Navy station called Pearl Harbor…


Amber has really interesting relationships with her parents. They don’t always see eye to eye (in the first scene Amber actually gets really mad at her dad after he announces their new move), but it is obvious that they love each other a lot. This quote from Amber just about melted me.

“I love to hug Dad; he smells like an ice-cream soda.” [pg. 128]

:) She also says after a kind action of his,

“That’s the kind of thing Dad does all the time that makes him so sweet.” [pg. 113]

Her mother is a woman who “doesn’t suffer fools gladly”, and wants to talk through any disagreements she has with the rest of the family. This annoys Amber sometimes, but she also recognizes what a good, strong woman her mother is. Although pregnant, she (the mom) volunteers to help with nursing the wounded men the instant the need arises and instead of forbidding Amber to come along because the sights would be too “mature” for her, instead allows her to come and invest in the wounded soldiers.

Amber says of her parents,

“They don’t usually argue – I’m not saying they never argue, but it’s rare and when they do, it’s BEHIND CLOSED DOORS. They don’t even raise their voices, so it’s impossible to hear what they’re saying even if you put a glass to the wall.” [pg. 29]

It’s obvious that the parents are very concerned about creating a secure and happy home environment for their children. I’d say they did a good job. It’s not perfect, but it doesn’t need to be.

Amber mentions that lots of beach boys surf at Waikiki – boys with “really good tans and lots of muscles”. No other romance-ish anything occurs in the story, but in the epilogue it is mentioned that one of the characters and his wife got a divorce, then he committed suicide. I’ll never understand the morbidity of Dear America’s epilogues…

In an attempt to acknowledge the cultural time frame, it’s mentioned that Amber read several Nancy Drew books and watched different movies at the theater with her family (How Green Was My Valley, Dumbo). This is actually one of my favorite parts of the Dear America and Royal Diaries series, is catching a glimpse of what we might consider to be “old-fashioned” books and movies and how they were received at the time that they were released.

Amber mentions that each Hawaiian island has its own special god.

Amber’s father uses the world “h***” once. [pg. 25]

Conclusion. Better than I expected. Read with When the Soldiers Were Gone, The Bombing of Pearl HarborSnow Treasure, and The Attacks on Pearl Harbor.

Review © 2014 Laura Verret

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