Face of Japanese American girl in front of a red curtain with a pencil, notebook, space helmet, cat, and basketball floating above her head

Dream, Annie, Dream / Waka T. Brown

Set in Kansas in 1987, Aoi – who has recently decided to go by “Annie” because she’s tired of having her name mispronounced – is excited about her summer theatre camp because this year, they will all have an opportunity to audition for “Annie,” the musical the local theatre group is putting on. Annie auditions for the role of Annie and aces her audition…but she receives a very small role in the play. Instead, the role of Annie went to her best friend, Jessica, who showed up to the audition dressed as Annie and whose mother is involved with the theatre group. But Jessica cannot hit the notes when she sings, and she cannot convey the emotion she needs to. Annie follows her dad’s advice to take in the experience of her first show, so she helps her friend and is thrilled when she succeeds, she gets to experience all of the fun and stress of her very first production, and she develops a crush and fellow castmate, Ben.

After Annie ends, the next play is, “The King and I.” This play takes place in Thailand, and Annie feels positive she’ll get a bigger role. She does get another part, despite bombing her audition, and she sets out to balance school, friends, basketball practice, and rehearsals. But then her world starts falling apart. Her math teacher unfairly targets her for being a girl; she notices racial comments among her classmates and friends that make her uncomfortable; she finds out she’s allergic to her cat; but worst of all, rumors start that Annie only got the role in “The King and I” because she’s Asian.

The book explores Annie’s relationship with her parents and brother; her friendships at school, including falling out with some friends and realizing who her real friends are; and racism against Asians. None of the racism is violent; it’s the microaggressions that are explored in depth, the ones that make Annie second guess whether she should give someone the benefit of the doubt or if they really meant it to belittle her. And those who love theatre will enjoy reading about all what goes into making a production. The book is recommended for those in 6th – 8th grade.