Children's Literature Bookshelf

“Apple Pie 4th of July,” by Janet S. Wong, illustrated by Margaret Chodos-Irvine. Harcourt Inc., New York, 2002, 32 pages, Grades K-2.

“Apple Pie 4th of July,” by Janet S. Wong, illustrated by Margaret Chodos-Irvine.
Harcourt Inc., New York, 2002, 32 pages, Grades K-2.

The United States has been described as a great melting pot. This image comes from the fact that people from all parts of the world have settled in America. This diversity has been a great strength to the nation because the country can draw from all the foods, languages and customs of its citizens. But there are also challenges of blending many different nationalities together. This is obvious when the older members of the immigrant group relate to their American born children. Many times the children are embarrassed by the seemingly outdated customs of their parents and grandparents.  The older family members do not always understand why the children act so Americanized. Janet Wong takes up this issue in her touching book, “Apple Pie 4th of July.”

A young Chinese-American girl works in her parent’s restaurant. It is the 4th of July and the entire town is downtown watching the parade and festivities. Though her parents have lived in the United States for many years, they are still essentially Chinese. It makes no sense to them to close their restaurant on the 4th of July. The child is frustrated that her parents don’t understand that Americans will not buy Chinese food on the holiday. Unfortunately, she is right. As the day continues, she hears the band playing exciting music and longs to be at the holiday events. Her parents prepare food and are somewhat befuddled that no one comes to the restaurant. The little girl cannot believe her parents are so culturally unaware.

Meanwhile, some of the neighbors begin baking apple pies. The smell wafts through the neighborhood, making the girl’s mouth water for the delicacy. Finally, the family eats all the prepared food and begins cleaning up the restaurant. Suddenly, several people come to the door asking about getting some carry-out. The child tells the customers that no one had come all day, so her family ate all the food. Just then, she notices the delicious smells coming from the kitchen. Soon, more people begin standing in line to buy her family’s food. As evening starts they sell the last of the dishes and go onto the roof of their apartment. All around them is the smell of apple pie. What then happens as night sets in?

Does everyone eat apple pie? Are there fireworks that night? Where did your ancestors come from? Why do so many people like Chinese food? What does the young girl learn about her Chinese-American background on the July 4th holiday? To find out, go to the library and check out this fine book, “Apple Pie 4th of July” by Janet S. Wong.

Janet Wong has told a poignant story of a young girl caught between two worlds. The lesson the child learns is that being Chinese and being American do not have to be contradictions. Both cultures have formed her and she can benefit from the two cultural histories. Additionally, other Americans from different cultures have gained from the richness of the Chinese culture. Wong’s book shows this blending of cultures in the United States at its best. I think you and your family will like this story. I certainly did. Enjoy and have an enjoyable July 4th celebration!

Terrence Nollen




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