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Dreaming of being the Apple Pie Princess in her town's Apple Blossom Festival, Korean-American third grader Clara Lee defies a classmate who claims to be more deserving and bravely makes a speech in front of the whole school to win the honor. This appealing family-and-school story focuses as much on Clara Lee's relationships with her little sister, Emmeline, and her "dream genius" grandfather as it does on her friends and the competition. Han, who has previously written about teens (The Summer I Turned Pretty, 2009)and preteens (Shug, 2006), captures an 8-year-old's perspective perfectly. The first-person narrative includes imaginative play, family squabbles, the school-bus experience and a touching speech about the special joys of small-town life. Her grandfather assures her: "One hundred percent American. One hundred percent Korean. Doesn't make you less than anybody else. It makes you more." The message shines through but doesn't overwhelm this engaging chapter book that will be welcomed by middle-grade fans of Clementine. Final art not seen.(Fiction. 7-10)
When I woke up that morning and saw the red and gold leaves swirling around my backyard, I just knew it was gonna be my kind of day. We started collecting leaves early in the morning, and by afternoon, we had three very nice, fat piles. My best friend, Shayna; my little sister, Emmeline; and me, Clara Lee. Clara Lee is my name, first and last. All the kids at school call me Clara Lee and not just Clara. It just sounds better that way. Like peanut butter and jelly, like trick-or-treat, or fairy and princess, those words just go together. Just like me, Clara Lee.
Later on, we would jump in our leaf piles, but first, we were playing a game I made up called Fall Royalty. Shayna is Queen, Emmeline is Prince, and I am the King of Fall.
“Why do you always get to be king?” Emmeline complained. She loves to complain; it’s her favorite hobby. She is six. She’s small for her age. A runt, like Wilbur from Charlotte’s Web. I call her that when no one’s listening. It really makes her mad. She has chubby cheeks and round button eyes and everybody thinks she is just the cutest thing ever. But not me. I can see through her like plastic wrap.
“It’s not fair,” she whined.
“I’m the one who made up the game,” I reminded her. “If you don’t want to play, you can go and help Grandpa—”
Emmeline pushed her bottom lip out a smidge but didn’t argue. She scooped another leaf off the ground and added it to her pile.
I picked a brownish leaf out of the pile. “Not bright enough,” I declared, in my best King of Fall voice.
Emmeline put her hands on her hips. “Just because you’re the king—,” she started to say. Then she looked over at Shayna. “Shayna, do you think it’s fair that Clara Lee gets to be king?”
“I would rather be queen any day,” Shayna said, fixing her crown of leaves so it set just right on her head. “Why don’t you be princess instead of prince this time?”
“Princesses are boring,” Emmeline said. And then she threw her handful of leaves in the air and danced around our pile. She bounced around like a kangaroo, shook her hips from side to side, and moved her arms like she was doing the backstroke.
Shayna and I looked at each other and shrugged. And then we threw our leaves in the air too, and we danced like Emmeline danced.
After all the dancing, it was time for me to make my toast to fall. I had already practiced it that morning when I brushed my teeth. “Ahem. Now the king will make a toast.” I paused dramatically. I lifted the jug of apple cider that my mom had brought out for us.
“A toast? But we already had breakfast,” Emmeline whispered to Shayna.
“A toast is a speech,” Shayna explained.
“Then why didn’t she just say speech?”
“Quiet, the both of you!” I boomed. Shayna glared at me, and I mouthed, Sorry. Then I cleared my throat. “Fall is a time of change. The seasons are changing. Soon it will be cold. But we will always, always remember the fall, because it is the best time of year. Amen.”
Emmeline crossed her eyes at me. She learned that talent very recently, and now she does it every opportunity she gets, because she knows I can’t. Emmeline said, “I like summer the best.”
“Do not disrespect fall,” I told her, taking a swig from the jug. Then I passed it to Shayna, who sipped it in her ladylike way. Then she passed it to Emmeline, who drank almost half of it.
Our leaf piles were looking good, so I said, “Ready?”
Shayna and Emmeline yelled, “Ready!”
We all jumped into our piles at the same time. It was like jumping into a cloud of fall. Leaves floated in the air like snowflakes. We three couldn’t stop screaming, it was so fun.
After a lot of jumping, we laid down on our leaf piles. It was getting dark. We would have to go inside soon. That was the only bad thing about fall. It got dark so darned quick.
“Clara Lee?” Shayna’s leaf pile was in the middle, right in between Emmeline and me.
“Apple Blossom Festival is coming up really soon. Are you going to try out for Little Miss Apple Pie?”
“I don’t know. Haven’t even thought about it,” I lied.
“That’s a lie, Clara Lee!” said Emmeline. “I saw you practicing your wave yesterday.”
I told her, “You shouldn’t spy on people.”
She was right though. I’d thought about it plenty.
Excerpted from Clara Lee and the Apple Pie Dream by Han, Jenny Copyright © 2011 by Han, Jenny. Excerpted by permission.
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Posted December 14, 2011
Clara Lee is a little girl with a big dream. When a bad dream turns out to mean good luck, it gives Clara Lee the boost of confidence she needs to pursue her dream of trying out for Little Miss Apple Pie, even if it means giving a speech in front of the whole school, which, mind you, isn¿t exactly her ¿cup of cocoa.¿ When a string of not-so-lucky events sends her good luck packing, Clara Lee¿s confidence takes off with it, leaving her feeling mighty discouraged. But, as Clara Lee soon discovers, luck isn¿t something that comes and goes as it pleases; it¿s something you make for yourself. In 'Clara Lee and the Apple Pie Dream,' writer Jenny Han redefines what it means to be ¿American as apple pie.¿ Clara Lee is what her grandfather calls an ¿all-American Korean American;¿ she embraces all aspects of her heritage. When she isn¿t wrestling with what it means to be an American, Clara Lee is dealing with the ups and downs of being an older sister, a friend, a daughter, and a granddaughter. Writing from Clara Lee¿s perspective, Han really gets inside the head of her young protagonist. If it weren¿t for the fact that she¿s a fictional character, one would think Clara Lee was a living, breathing third-grader. She¿s funny, she¿s cute, and she's as sweet as apple pie. Julia Kuo¿s cover art for 'Clara Lee and the Apple Pie Dream' sparkles as brightly as Clara Lee¿s personality. The colors just pop! Her interior art brings the story and its characters to life. She does a phenomenal job of capturing the characters¿ personalities and what they are thinking and feeling in their facial expressions. 'Clara Lee and the Apple Pie Dream' is a charming chapter book that readers between the ages of seven and ten are bound to enjoy.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 20, 2010
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