Wednesday, May 23, 2007

One meatball

Got a picture book I don't like. Of course, there are plenty of picture books that don't do a thing for me. It's usually not worth my time to point them out. But One Green Apple by Eve Bunting actually cracked me up with its not-goodness.

Farah is about 10 or 11, new to this country, not yet speaking English. She feels that her headscarf sets her apart from the other kids, and she wonders whether she will ever fit in. Today, Farah's class is on a field trip to an orchard. Each child is instructed to pick one apple, and each child dutifully selects a red shiny apple. Farah picks an apple from a tree that looks the way she feels - a little stunted, a little different.

The class then runs down the hill toward a crooked wooden shack. Farah wonders who lives in the shack: a goatherd, chickens? Instead, we find a metal machine inside the shack. The teacher has each child put his or her apple in the machine. Farah is last. The teacher gives Farah's crummy little green apple a slighting look, then shrugs and has her chuck it into the machine.

The machine is turned on, and hurray! all the apples are now turned into delicious cider!

This has got to be the worst metaphor for assimilation I have seen since Marlo Thomas announced that we were all "Free to Be You and Me". Put each unique child into a big guncha-guncha machine, grind 'em to a pulp, then squeeze the pulp until a thin, palatable homogeneous mixture is obtained! Give us your tired, your poor!

Eve Bunting is a versatile writer who tackles interesting, diverse subjects and has an unerring eye for illustrators: Pop's Bridge and Smoky Night are terrific books (Hell, Smoky Night won the Caldecott!). My Special Day at Third Street School is a great gift for your favorite reading teacher. But One Green Apple is, as we say, not so good.