From School Library Journal
Grade 1-4–As a Muslim girl rides in a hay wagon heading to an apple orchard on a class trip, the dupatta on her head setting her apart, she observes that while some of the children seem friendly, others are not. Her father has explained, …we are not always liked here. Our home country (never named in the story) and our new one have had difficulties. Later, when she puts a green apple into the cider press instead of a ripe red one as her classmates have done, they protest. But the cider from all their apples mixed together is delicious–a metaphor for the benefits of intermingling people who are different. Lewin's watercolors radiate sunlight and capture the gamut of emotions that Farah experiences on this challenging second day in her new school in the U.S. They show her downcast silence and sense of isolation because she can't speak the language, her shy smile when a classmate befriends her, and, finally, her triumphant smile as she speaks one of her first English words, App-ell. This story, along with Bernard Wolf's Coming to America: A Muslim Family's Story (Lee & Low, 2003), can heighten youngsters' awareness of what it must be like to feel different and alone and that each person has something unique to contribute to the good of all.–Marianne Saccardi, formerly at Norwalk Community College, CT
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*Starred Review* Gr. 1-3. This poignant, attractive offering fills a growing need for picture books about contemporary immigrants of Arab descent, without limiting its relevance to a single ethnic group. On her "second day in the new school in the new country," Farah, who cannot speak English, joins her class on a field trip to an apple orchard, where she enjoys the sunny day but feels desperately isolated, "tight inside [herself]." Though Farah wears a headscarf and knows that there are "difficulties" between her native and adoptive countries, specifics of religion and politics never distract from the child's experiences: the hay smelling of "dry sunshine," the spark of optimism kindled when classmates accept her help at the cider press. Young readers will respond as much to Bunting's fine first-person narrative as to Lewin's double-page, photorealistic watercolors, which, though occasionally stiff, plainly show the intelligence behind Farah's silent exterior. The old-fashioned assimilation metaphor Farah sees in the cider-making experience ("I will blend with the others the way my apple blended with the cider") needn't have been so overt, but with its large, read-aloud-friendly trim size and its age-appropriate premise, this book will work beautifully for teachers hoping to foster empathy for immigrant students, or for use in furthering character education aims. Jennifer Mattson
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