WOW Review: Reading Across Cultures

One Green Apple

Written by Eve Bunting
Illustrated by Ted Lewin
Clarion, 2006
ISBN: 9780618434770

Eve Bunting has written numerous children’s books, and her work has been recognized through several awards. Some of her books tell stories about immigrants in the United States, such as So Far from the Sea (1998), A Day’s Work (1994), and Smoky Night (1994), a 1995 Caldecott medal winner. One Green Apple, a 2006 Arab American National Museum Book Award winner, also tells a story about an immigrant girl, Farah, although Bunting does not specify what country Farah comes from. Bunting herself is an immigrant, born in Ireland in 1928 and immigrated to the United States in 1958.

One Green Apple begins with Farah’s riding on a hay wagon to the apple farm on her second day of the school. Farah feels different from the other children in the wagon even though she wears jeans and a T-shirt. Farah does not speak English and wears the dupatta, a headscarf and so feels that she does not belong to the group. At the apple farm, children are asked to pick one apple to make apple cider. When Farah put a green apple into the cider machine instead of a ripe red apple, some children worry that her green apple will ruin the taste of the cider. However, they discover that the green apple blends in and makes delicious apple cider. Farah also senses that, like her green apple, she will blend with other children in her new country.

The metaphor of the apples blending to make cider can be seen as signaling hope for Farah’s adjustment in a new country or as supporting the idea that immigrants need to give up their own culture and blend into American mainstream culture. This interpretation is problematic, but can be used to provoke a discussion of the issues related to a cultural melting pot perspective on immigration. Teachers can talk about understanding and appreciating all cultures.

Bunting does not provide much information about Farah and her country. Readers can only guess that Farah might be from a Muslim country since she wears a dupatta. However, this book does not intend to teach about a Muslim country or culture. Through Farah’s narration, Bunting invites readers to listen to Farah’s inner voice and feel how difficult it is to be different from others.

Talking about immigrants in a society may be a difficult topic for children to understand and discuss. One Green Apple may assist children in putting themselves in immigrant children’s shoes and discussing how they feel and think about those children. However, the discussion does not need to be limited to talk about immigrants, but may be extended to discuss being different from the majority. If teachers plan a unit for Muslim families in the United States, Coming to America: A Muslim Family’s Story (Bernard Wolf, 2003) may be paired with One Green Apple.

Along with Bunting’s soft yet powerful story, Lewin’s illustrations capture Farah’s silence, thoughts, and emotions. Lewin’s exceptional art work appear to be still pictures. Besides Farah’s subtle facial expressions, Lewin depicts the other characters’ facial expressions as well through double spread illustrations and close-ups. His realistic illustrations help readers easily imagine what the characters are thinking. Farah’s small but happy smile at the end of the book leaves hope, cheer, and warmness in readers’ hearts for Farah. Both Eve Bunting and Ted Lewin are strong candidates for an author or illustrator study for children to explore. More information about Ted Lewin can be found at www.tedlewin.com.

Jongsun Wee, Parkview Middle School, Ankeny, IA

9 thoughts on “WOW Review: Reading Across Cultures

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