Books told in first person can instantly transport us into the mind of the character. Eve Bunting's most recent picture book, One Green Apple, is no exception. In an unadorned, plain-spoken voice, Farah, a recent Muslim immigrant, begins the story of her experience in America. This is my second day in the new school, in the new country. . . . Farah and her new classmates are about to embark on an excursion, a field trip to an apple orchard. Farah feels isolated, alone and different. She does not speak English. Though she wears the typical American garb of jeans and T-shirt, she also wears a dupatta, a traditional headscarf. Other children eye her suspiciously and she hears her country mentioned, although not in pleasant tones.
All is not grim however. Farah sits side by side on a hay wagon with the other children and hears the echoes of her father's words, it will be good for us here, in time. One girl, Anna, introduces herself and in the two-page spread of the girls' faces, there is hope. Illustrator Ted Lewin ably captures the myriad of emotions on the faces of the other children: distrust, interest, unease, as they are greeted with the presence of this strange new classmate. The day's activities include making cider, and each child adds one apple to the mix. Farah's contribution, the titular green apple, is starkly different, but when combined with the red ones of the other children, creates a drink no less sweet. Farah begins to see the common threads of this culture and her own. Laughs, sneezes and even belches sound the same as in her village. The dogs still romp and hay still tickles the nose. Lewin's art drenches the book in green, gold and violet hues. His watercolors wash each page in warm light and reinforce the hopeful tone of Bunting's text. A story of contrasts, One Green Apple gently juxtaposes wariness with kindness and leaves the reader with an image of Farah's smile as she takes her first step toward self-confidence on a journey of change. Jennifer Robinson is a teacher in Baltimore.