Title: One Green Apple
Author: Eve Bunting
Illustrator: Ted Lewin
Publisher: Clarion Books
Word Count: 958
Top 10 Element: Theme
I am participating in Picture Books 14:14, a challenge created by Christie of Write Wild that encourages bloggers to review 14 picture books in 14 days, starting on Feb. 14th.
I love One Green Apple. I picked it as my top choice in my Picture Book 10 for 10 Must Haves last year, and it is one of the first books that I share with my students each year. This powerful story follows the second day of school for Farah, a newly arrived immigrant to America, whose dupatta and lack of English set her apart.
Analysis: ThemeTheme is the underlying message of a story, and themes can be direct or indirect; they can be blatant or subtle. In One Green Apple the theme develops slowly and powerfully, and every year I am astounded at how much symbolism and metaphor my third graders catch on to when we discuss the story.
One Green Apple takes place on a field trip, where Farah joins her fellow students in apple picking. The story is told from her first person perspective, so we experience this "all-American" activity (as American as apple pie, perhaps?) through her eyes in a way that highlight the similarities and differences to what is familiar to her.
Farah finds a classmate, Anna, who is willing to smile and introduce herself, but there are others who are less friendly. When the students arrive at the orchard to pick apples, Farah pulls away from the rest of the group and picks a small green apple that contrasts with the large, bright red apples chosen by her classmates.
When it comes time to combine their apples into cider, a boy attempts to stop Farah from adding her green apple, but he is too late. Together, the students enjoy the cider, and on the hay ride back they discover some other things they have in common. This quote, for me, really drives home the theme of the book:
"Laughs sound the same as at home. Just the same. So do sneezes and belches and lots of things. It is the words that are strange. But soon I will know their words. I will blend with the others the way my apple blended with the cider."
The story ends with a message of hope and a promise of integration and progress. (You really have to read the last few pages for yourself, I cannot bear to spoil them.)
When I discuss this book with students, they are able to draw out amazing insights into the key themes. It is a story about belonging. It is a story about being welcoming. It is a story about similarities that also celebrates our differences. It is a story about how I always want my classroom community to be, which is why we open our school year by sharing it.
Want more picture book analyses? Click here to read my other posts for Picture Books 14:14 or check out these other great posts for the Picture Book 14:14 Challenge going on the rest of this month.