Monday, July 2, 2007

Picture Book Review: Apple Pie 4th of July

Today, I thought I’d write a review of one of my favorite multicultural pictures books. It is perfect for reading on Independence Day.

Written by Janet Wong
Illustrated by Margaret Chodos-Irvine
Harcourt, 2002

This story takes place on Independence Day. The book’s main character is a Chinese-American girl whose parents were not born in the United States. Her parents own a store that is open 364 days a year—even on Thanksgiving. She feels that they don’t understand all “American things.”

The girl smells an apple pie baking in a neighbor's oven upstairs. She thinks her parents are foolish for cooking Chinese food. She is sure that no one will want to eat sweet-and-sour pork, egg rolls, noodles, or chow mein on the Fourth of July. She tells her parents—but they don’t listen.

Throughout most of the day the young girl is proven right. People come into the store to buy soda and potato chips…to buy ice cream and ice and matches. Then at five o’clock, a steady stream of "Americans" begins filing into the store until closing time to pick up…Chinese food! The story ends after the store closes and the girl and her family climb the stairs to the rooftop where they watch the fireworks display…and eat apple pie.

Wong's APPLE PIE 4TH OF JULY is a straightforward tale that expresses the feelings that many children who are first generation Americans experience—feelings that their parents don’t quite “get it”…that their families aren’t truly American. It is a simply told story with a brief text. Chodos-Irvine’s illustrations add meaning and capture the emotions of the young girl—her boredom, her frustration, her embarrassment and wistful sadness—with facial expressions and body language. This is a picture book in which art and text meld perfectly to tell a truly American tale.

Click here to see some of Chodos-Irvine's illustrations from APPLE PIE 4TH OF JULY.

Click here to see a video of Janet Wong reading APPLE PIE 4TH OF JULY for Easter at the White House in 2003.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great choice, Elaine! I love this one, too. And it always makes me hungry for Chinese food.