Clara Lee and the Apple Pie Dream: Diverse and Universal All-American Story

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Clara Lee and the Apple Pie Dream by Jenny Han, illustrated by Julia Kuo

Clara Lee wants to be Little Miss Apple Pie in the upcoming Apple Blossom Festival parade.  But it requires that she gives a speech in front of the entire school and that worries her.  So when she has a dream that she thinks is a nightmare but her grandfather assures her is good luck, she discovers that she has an entire day of luck.  She gets the backseat on the bus, she climbs all the way to the top of the rope in gym class, and someone secretly gives her a candy necklace.  So she signs up to compete for Little Miss Apple Pie.  But before she can give her speech, her luck changes for the worse.  Will she be able to restore her good luck before the contest?

Han has created a book that is fresh and a delight to read.  Clara Lee is both all-American and beautifully Korean.  Her life with a foot in both worlds will easily be related to by anyone who has a strong cultural tie to another country.  There are some scenes that capture this especially well, like the meal where Clara Lee and her family eat fish soup, except for her little sister who gets to eat chicken wings instead.

That scene is refreshingly honest not only about the multiple cultures but about family relationships, especially with younger siblings.  The emotions that Clara Lee exhibits are real and tangible for the reader.  Clara Lee is not a perfect girl, instead it is her more human moments that make her the protagonist she is.

This chapter book is just right for young readers transitioning from easy readers to full chapter books.  There are friendly illustrations that make the reading easier and the writing is simple and forthright, ideal for transitional readers.  Get this in the hands of children who enjoy Ivy and Bean.  Appropriate for ages 6-8.

Reviewed from library copy.

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