SNEAK PEEK PREVIEW: Clara Lee & the Apple Pie Dream redefines “as American as apple pie”

December 10, 2010 at 9:00 am Leave a comment

Clara Lee and the Apple Pie Dream by Jenny Han; illustrated by Julia Kuo; published by Little, Brown & Co., New York; tentative publication date: January 4, 2011.

NOTE: This review is based on an ARC (advance reading copy) provided for free by the publisher.  The cover art, below, and the publication information is subject to change.  The book is expected to be released January 4, 2011.

Her sister’s name is Emmeline.  Her best friends are Shayna, Max and Georgina.  Her name is Clara but everyone calls her Clara Lee.  She’s Korean American and she’s in the third grade.  Her grandfather lives with her, Emmeline and their parents.  He doesn’t speak English very well, but he likes to write down words he doesn’t know so he can learn more.  He also is the world’s best dream interpreter.  When Clara Lee has a bad dream, Grandpa tells her that bad dreams bring good luck.  Well, maybe that good luck will help her work up enough courage to give a speech at the auditions for Little Miss Apple Pie, an honor bestowed on the third, fourth or fifth grader who best represents their town in the Apple Pie Festival.  Some of Clara Lee’s classmates don’t think she’s American enough to compete.  Will she ever work up the courage to compete?  What makes someone an American?

I’m always on the lookout for a good multicultural story that relates universal truths of childhood with a lesson in someone else’s culture.  Bingo!  Jenny Han has delivered a delightful story of childhood insecurities (friendships, family, peer pressures) wrapped in a blanket of a Korean immigrant family.  Through Clara Lee, readers learn about typical Korean foods, some superstitions, and family life.  And in the end, all those beautiful cultural differences blend with the cultures of the other families in town revealing what makes a real American.  Hooray for diversity!

Han has successfully given Clara Lee the voice of an eight year old.  When Clara Lee seems to lapse into an adult voice, it can be dismissed as precociousness.  Grandfather’s Korean accent is wonderfully easy to read and understand.  Best of all, the politics of elementary school are distilled into a believable story with a happy ending.

Because the final art was not available in this ARC, I can’t comment on Kuo’s illustrations.  However, if the sketches included at the beginning of the book are any indication, the pictures fit very well with the story.  For early chapter book readers, the illustrations help to reinforce the words, and Kuo appears to have captured that.  I look forward to January, when I can peek at the final art! 🙂

I’d include this book in a display in the autumn.  The story opens with a scene depicting the beauty that is fall (my favorite season) and ends with an apple harvest festival.  Teachers or parents will find this an easy read aloud that will segue into discussions about what it means to be part of a community, what it means to be American.  For those reasons, I’d also include it in a list of resources for adoptive families, especially families that opt for international adoption.

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Entry filed under: ARC or galley, Children's Chapter Book, Multicultural chapter book. Tags: , , , , , , .

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Disclaimers: Per the FTC regulations, please note that sometimes books are received for review for free by publishers or authors. All books (ARCs, galleys, library or purchased) will be reviewed fairly; no special consideration is given to anything reviewed on this blog. In addition, I make every attempt to avoid spoilers. Sometimes they happen inadvertently or because they are important to defend a review; not all spoilers have been removed or fixed. This disclaimer is a general statement included as a warning to readers.

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