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Clara Lee and the Apple Pie Dream

Review

Clara Lee and the Apple Pie Dream

written by Jenny Han, illustrated by Julia Kuo

Although CLARA LEE AND THE APPLE PIE DREAM is only a mere 150 pages with large typeface and adorable pen-and-ink illustrations scattered throughout, this pint-size book has just about all the ingredients for an easily digestible and thoroughly engaging read: true-to-life characters, an important lesson to be learned, and a compact story arc that wastes no time in skipping along toward completion.

Veteran children’s book author Jenny Han knows an identifiable character when she sees one --- or thinks of one, that is. Third-grader Clara Lee is as feisty yet earnest as they come. Her dream to nab the Little Miss Apple Pie title at the Apple Blossom Festival is as fraught with insecurity and competition-inspired jitters as any goal a kid that age might have. But Han adds an important layer to Clara Lee’s worries. Being Korean American, what if she’s not “American as apple pie” enough as some of her blond-haired, blue-eyed opponents?

Han includes other elements in the story that highlight Clara Lee’s differences from her peers in a way that appreciates rather than judges or scorns. When she dreams about her grandfather’s death, her wise and perceptive grandfather assuages her fears by teaching her that in Korea death in a dream symbolizes good luck and positive change rather than a bad omen. Instead of getting her down, her dreams imbue her with confidence she didn’t know she had and enable her to try new things even though she’s just a little bit scared.

But Clara Lee isn’t all peaches and candy. When a boy from her class asks her to be his valentine, she throws a tantrum and pushes him away --- literally. She often gets mad at her little sister Emmeline for being “annoying,” and her lack of self-confidence at times can make her seem a little high-strung for a tiny tot her age. But like any big-hearted character in the throes of growing up, she’s easily forgiven, and her lovable quirks are as ubiquitous as, well, cinnamon is in apple pie.

Reviewed by Alexis Burling on January 4, 2011

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

  • Publication Date: January 4, 2011
  • Hardcover: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
  • ISBN-10: 0316070386
  • ISBN-13: 9780316070386