MG Review: CLARA LEE AND THE APPLE PIE DREAM, by Jenny Han, Illus. by Julia Kuo

Favorite Quotes
“In Korean, everyone has a special name. I’m Uhnee because that means “big sister.” p. 36

“What was out of style yesterday could be back today, Mr. Eddly. You just never know.” I then walked past him with a little sashay in my step.” p. 44

“Grandpa was in the TV room watching one of his Korean soap operas, the kind where women are always crying and the men wear fancy suits.” p. 90 Cracked me up. A Korean drama is one those hard-to-forget experiences. Armed with tissues, be ready to laugh and cry.

Aaah, Clara Lee!

CLARA LEE AND THE APPLE PIE DREAM, written by Jenny Han and illustrated by Julia Kuo, has all the flavors of your favorite apple dessert: it’s sweet, and the occasional sourness adds a kick that makes you go back for an encore. And add whip cream on top.

Clare Lee is a Korean American third grader full of life, and gifted with serious leadership skills that occasionally get her into trouble. Though the plot evolves around an apple pie contest she’s afraid of but dream of entering, the richness of the story, from my point of view, lies in the depth and diversity of topics explored:
– How does someone as young as Clara Lee handles being bi-cultural? At some point, she struggles with the idea of not being “American” enough.
– She dreams that her grandfather, with whom she lives, passes away. Of course she would be scared. What does it it mean in the Korean culture?
– She’s terrorized by the idea of getting on a stage, facing a crowd, and giving a speech. Will she find a way to overcome her fears in order to enter the contest? Does she have a shot at becoming Miss Little Apple Pie?

One of the elements I enjoyed in CLARA LEE AND THE APPLE PIE DREAM is its celebration of what is at the core of the American culture: its diversity. The tone of the book, the voice of the character, which Jenny Han nailed, is assertive and funny. Clara Lee’s story kept me on my toes because I wondered throughout what would happen to her grandfather. I also enjoyed the bits and pieces about her life as a Korean American, learning how relatives address each other, what they eat…

This is a fun read for 9 and up. 🙂

Additional information:
* published in January 2011
* Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
* Source: won the book at a raffle.

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About Nathalie Mvondo

Nathalie Mvondo lives in Northern California and studies anthropology and nutrition. She is a writer and a blogger.
This entry was posted in Books, Middle Grade and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to MG Review: CLARA LEE AND THE APPLE PIE DREAM, by Jenny Han, Illus. by Julia Kuo

  1. This will definitely be on my library list. Yay for bi-cultural kids books! (BTW, your new logo looks great!)

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  2. Akoss says:

    this goes well with my recent read of “The Great Wall of Lucy Wu”.
    Thanks a bunch for sharing. I will add it to my goodreads. 🙂

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  3. Thanks for sharing this. I’d like to read this book. I also realized the author’s name seemed familiar. When I looked her up I saw that she also writes YA and some of her other books are on my wish list.

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  4. Doret says:

    Thanks for this review. Looking forward to reading this now.

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  5. @Kristen: aaaah, thank you about the logo. Still have much work to keep the blog going, but I’m getting there. 🙂

    @Akoss: I heard of The Great Wall of Lucy Wu! Did you review it already? Would love to hear more about it. 🙂

    @Medeia: Medeia, your encouragements mean the world to me. Thanks for being such a faithful reader. Your book lists are fab! 🙂

    @Doret: Wishing you to enjoy it as much as I did, Doret. 😉

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