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Shai & Emmie Star in Break an Egg!

Illustrated by Sharee Miller / With Nancy Ohlin



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About The Book

From Academy Award–nominated actress Quvenzhané Wallis comes the first story in a brand-new series about best friends Shai and Emmie, two third graders destined for superstardom.

Shai Williams was born to be a star (or a veterinarian—and maybe a dentist). She attends a special elementary school for the performing arts, and her grandma Rosa and aunt Mac-N-Cheese are both actresses. So Shai is shocked when she doesn’t get the lead role in the third-grade musical. Instead, the part goes to the new girl, Gabby Supreme, who thinks she is better than everyone else.

To add insult to injury, Ms. Gremillion has now asked Shai to help Gabby with the role. Shai reluctantly agrees and enlists Emmie to help, but Gabby isn’t going to make it easy. As opening night draws near, Shai discovers that making a new friend is sometimes like putting on a show—it requires dedication, patience, and lots and lots of practice.


Shai & Emmie Star in Break an Egg! SCENE 1 The New Girl
Shai Williams slipped on her sunglasses and strolled into drama class.

“Please, no photos!” she said in her best movie-star voice. She believed in making an entrance.

Everyone cracked up . . . except for a girl in a green sundress who just looked confused. Shai had never seen her before. Who was she, anyway?

“Shai!” Emmie Harper, Shai’s best friend, stage-whispered. “Stage-whispering” was something Ms. Gremillion had taught them in class last week. It meant whispering kind of loudly—like the way Shai’s parents did whenever she got restless in church or slipped food to Sugar under the table.

Shai took the seat next to Emmie. As she set her turquoise backpack on the floor, her rhinestone initials glittered in the sunlight—SRW, for Shaianne Rosa Williams. “Shaianne” was pronounced “Shay-Anne,” although it often got mispronounced as “Shy-Anne.” Still, Shai loved her name, which was a mash of her parents’ names, “Shaquille” and “Annemarie.”

“Nice entrance,” Emmie said, complimenting her.

“Thanks,” Shai stage-whispered. “Who’s that girl in the green dress?”

“She’s new. Libby heard a rumor that she’s a professional actor,” replied Emmie.

Shai whipped off her sunglasses. “Excuse me?”

“Libby thinks she’s been on TV. Oh, and guess what else she heard?”

Emmie continued to talk, but Shai had stopped listening. She was still stuck on the part about the new girl being a professional actor.

The Sweet Auburn School for the Performing Arts was all about becoming a professional actor or a musician or a dancer . . . someday. It was an elementary school for kindergarten through fifth grade, and Shai and the other students were just starting to learn those performance skills.

So, what was a professional actor doing here? “Professional” meant having jobs; it meant already having serious acting skills.

“. . . on This Island! Wouldn’t that be amazetastic?” Emmie was saying.

“It’s not like I’m jealous or anything. Besides, it’s just a rumor, so it’s probably not even true,” Shai said with a shrug.

“Huh? Shai, did you hear what I just said? About the third-grade musical?”

Ms. Gremillion walked into the room just as the bell rang. The students fell silent and pulled their notebooks and pens out of their backpacks.

“Good afternoon, boys and girls,” said Ms. Gremillion.

“Good afternoon, Ms. Gremillion!”

Ms. Gremillion paused dramatically and scanned the room. “Dramatic pauses” had been another recent lesson. It meant being quiet in an interesting way so that your audience listened carefully to whatever you said next.

“Before we begin, I want to make two quick announcements,” she said. “First, our musical this year will be Once on This Island. If you’re interested in trying out, the auditions will be this Friday.”

Emmie grinned. “See, I told you!” she stage-whispered to Shai.

Shai jumped to her feet. She couldn’t help it—she was really excited! Once on This Island was one of her favorite musicals. She had seen it last summer at the Little Theater four whole times because her aunt MacKenzie, a.k.a. Aunt Mac-N-Cheese, had played Ti Moune, the lead of the show.

“Shai, do you have something you’d like to share?” asked Ms. Gremillion.

“Yes! I mean, no! I mean, I want to try out for Ti Moune!” Shai blurted out.

“That’s great, Shai,” Ms. Gremillion said.

The new girl sat up very straight and gave a little wave.

Ms. Gremillion nodded at her. “Yes, Gabby, you’re my second announcement. Class, this is Gabrielle Supreme. She and her family just moved here from Los Angeles, California.”

“Hollywood, actually,” Gabby said as she flipped her hair.

Hollywood? Shai scrunched up her face so hard that her nose hurt. Hollywood was where they made movies and TV shows.

So maybe Gabby was a professional actor after all?

Not that Shai was jealous or anything.

In any case, there was no way Ms. Hollywood was going to replace Shai as the best actor in the third grade. Did Gabby own a shiny gold trophy that said future oscar winner? An Oscar was one of the biggest awards in the acting world. Granted, Shai’s family had given her the trophy for her birthday, but so what?

The new girl didn’t stand a chance.

About The Author

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Quvenzhané Wallis knows a thing or two about creating memorable characters. For her feature film debut, Beasts of the Southern Wild, she was nominated for an Academy Award. Shortly after, she received a Golden Globe nomination for her work as the title character in Annie. She has also appeared in 12 Years a SlaveThe Prophet, and Fathers and Daughters. Quvenzhané is a daughter, a sister, a model, a singer, a dancer, an actress, an author, a student, and a pet owner. She has many talents and is always willing to try something new. She lives in Louisiana with her family. She is the author of the Shai and Emmie series and A Night Out with Mama.

About The Illustrator

Sharee Miller is an illustrator living in Brooklyn. She grew up on the island of St. Thomas before leaving to study at Pratt Institute in New York, where she earned a BFA in illustration. Though she remained in New York, she is still very much inspired by the colors and patterns of St. Thomas. Learn more at

Product Details

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (October 3, 2017)
  • Length: 128 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781481458825
  • Grades: 1 - 5
  • Ages: 6 - 10
  • Lexile ® 640L The Lexile reading levels have been certified by the Lexile developer, MetaMetrics®
  • Fountas & Pinnell™ O These books have been officially leveled by using the F&P Text Level Gradient™ Leveling System

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Raves and Reviews

"...pleasant tale of relationship ups and downs, with the bonus of a fun musical theater theme. Without becoming preachy, Shai models healthy attitudes and behaviors. The depiction of her loving, African American, middle-class family and diverse group of classmates is welcome. VERDICT A good choice for readers who enjoy character development"

– School Library Journal, August 2017

The hopeful ending is refreshingly realistic and hits the right notes. ...Audiences seeking contemporary beginning chapter-book series are sure to find much appeal in Shai and Emmie's world."

– Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 2017

"Teenage actor Wallis knows of what she writes....The interactions between Shay, her friends, and her African-American family bring warmth and light humor to this series opener."

– Publisher's Weekly, August 28, 2017

"A sunny and satisfying tale of fame and friendship"

– Booklist, October 4, 2017

"Readers with the theater bug will appreciate Shai’s enthusiasm."

– Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, November 2017

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More books from this author: Quvenzhané Wallis

More books from this illustrator: Sharee Miller

More books in this series: A Shai & Emmie Story