pip pip hooray: a-peeling apple picture books!

My great-niece, Melia, apple picking in Oregon.

My great-niece, Melia, apple picking in Oregon.

Thanks to you, I just polished off a piece of apple pie.

I wanted to write about apples today, and I needed a boost to get into the right mindset. Just trying to keep it real :)!

I love apples so much that my very first theme on this blog was Apple Month (October 2007). I shared poems, recipes, and various facts, trivia and folklore. Apples, which date back to prehistoric times, are the perfect fruit — extremely versatile, and the most varied on earth (2500 varieties in the U.S. alone). They were first cultivated in Egypt, and became a favorite of the ancient Greeks and Romans.

Thank you, early American settlers, for bringing apple seeds with you from Europe! Records from the Massachusetts Bay Colony indicate apples were grown in New England as early as 1630. Missionaries, traders, and Native Americans then carried seeds westward, and of course, John Chapman was responsible for extensive plantings of trees in the Midwest.

These Granny Smiths sacrificed themselves for my pie.

These Granny Smiths sacrificed themselves for my pie.

Though apples aren’t overflowing with vitamins and minerals like some other fruits, they do shine when it comes to Vitamin C, potassium, antioxidants, and fiber. They boost lung function and keep blood sugar stable. And did you know that apple juice was one of the earliest prescribed antidepressants?

*Sips some apple cider*

Right about now, I’m craving a few apple picture books. These are sweet, juicy, crunchy, life-affirming, beautiful, and inspiring. Share them with your kids, and enjoy them in one long peel.

Apples to Oregon, by Deborah Hopkinson, pictures by Nancy Carpenter (Atheneum, 2004). A rollicking tall tale loosely based on the true story of Henderson Luelling, who with his family of eight children, transported 700 plants and fruit trees from Iowa to Oregon by wagon in the 19th century.

Finding water on the journey to keep the saplings alive was a huge challenge, but they succeeded in planting Oregon’s first orchard in Milwaukie, about six miles south of Portland. The narrator, a spirited young’un named Delicious, relates the perils they faced, including river crossings, steep mountains, deserts, and frost, while Nancy Carpenter’s oil paintings are brimming with action, fun, and just the right amount of exaggeration to keep the tension high.

Johnny Appleseed: The Legend and the Truth, by Jane Yolen, pictures by Jim Burke (HarperCollins, 2008). A beautifully executed telling of John Chapman’s life, consisting of lyrical prose accentuated with poetry. Yolen carefully separates fact from fiction, in order to clarify misconceptions about this larger-than-life legend. Each stanza of an ongoing poem is paired with a prose telling of a significant milestone in Chapman’s life. Jim Burke’s warm, rich folk art paintings rendered in burnished earth tones invite the reader to wander back in time. Read an excellent, detailed review by Tricia at The Miss Rumphis Effect, or peek inside the book here.

The Apple King by Francesca Bosca, pictures by Giuliano Ferri, translated by J. Alison James (North-South Books, 2001). A satisfying morality tale, perfect for those who tend to be a little greedy with their apples. A rich and powerful porcine king covets his beautiful and sweet apples, not allowing anyone else in the kingdom to eat any. To his disgust and dismay, one day he discovers worms have invaded his tree. He tries everything to get rid of them, and is not successful until he learns that the tree itself has invited the worms. Muted watercolors expand the storyline in this delicious tale about sharing.

The Apple-Pip Princess by Jane Ray (Candlewick, 2007). A modern fairy tale about three princesses, who try to win their father’s favor in order to inherit the crown. Since the queen’s death, the land has become barren and somber, and each of the princesses has chosen one item as a remembrance of their mother. Suzanna, the eldest, chooses scarlet high heels because they make her feel tall and important. Middle sister Miranda chooses a jeweled mirror that perfectly reflects her vain self. 

But youngest sister Serenity chooses a plain wooden box containing a single apple pip. The tallest towers built by Suzanna and Miranda pale in comparison to Serenity’s achievement: she plants the apple seed, and with the help of the people, fills the kingdom once again with the beauty and fragrance of fruit and flower. A nod to cooperation, unselfishness, and the magnificent things that can come from a small idea. Ray’s detailed, stylized illustrations are magical, winsome, and evocative.

The Apple Doll by Elisa Kleven (FSG, 2007). An emotionally satisfying story of shy Lizzy, who takes her homemade apple doll named Susanna with her on the first day of school. When Lizzy’s teacher tells her that food and toys aren’t allowed in school, Lizzy leaves Susanna at home, but she is lonely without her. Susanna soon begins to lose her freshness, so Lizzy must find a way to make her doll last forever.

Her mother teaches her how to turn Susanna into a dried apple doll, and this newfound skill ultimately enables Lizzy to make new friends at school. A child’s concerns and feelings are treated with sensitivity, and Kleven’s wondrous mixed media and collage illustrations are breathtakingly beautiful. A paean on the healing power of art, with art that combines the best of color, texture, and detail. Instructions on how to make an apple doll also included. Be sure to see this book review and interview with Elisa by Jules of 7-Imp. 

Pretty pomes at Cox Farm Market, Vienna, Virginia

Have a crunchy day, my apple-cheeked friends!

11 thoughts on “pip pip hooray: a-peeling apple picture books!

  1. Apples and Johnny Appleseed are a Virginia school curriculum, so this is a particularly helpful list. But maybe you know that having taken your photo at the wonderful Cox Farms.
    Oh, love the image of you taking a break to sip cider.


  2. Apples definitely top off Fall for me every year. There’s nothing like fresh cider from the farm markets. Best part is, my DH is an expert apple peeler, corer, and slicer — so pie-making is that much easier.


  3. Tori and I flew east to visit family a few weeks ago and we went apple picking. I brought back a whole layer of apples in my suitcase 🙂
    Jama, when you have apple pie, do you like it with cheddar cheese or ice cream?
    Oh, and thanks for the book suggestions. I haven’t read any of them .. yet.
    p.s. I’m still giggling at the Granny Smith sacrifices 🙂


  4. No cheese or ice cream for me — unless it’s soy ice cream, since I’m lactose intolerant. Usually, though, I like my apple pie plain, a little warm :).
    Apples in a suitcase? Did they turn to sauce by the time you got home?


  5. I packed the apples really carefully, tucked my fleece jacket around them, and they had a safe trip. The only trouble is I meant to bring Cortlands but brought Snows instead. They have a similar skin and I was in a bit of a hurry, snuggling them in while I waited for the limo to arrive.


  6. FABULOUS review of all of these books and helpful too! I’ve been looking at Apples to Oregon and wondering if it was any good. I’d like to pick up a copy of that one in particular. I also found the idea of The Apple-Pip Princess very intriguing.

    Thanks for the tips/reviews!

    — Carrie, Reading to Know


  7. Thanks for stopping in to read, Carrie. The illustrations in Apples to Oregon are charming and humorous. That’s quite a story, hauling all those trees so far in a wagon.

    The Apple-Pip Princess introduced me to a new author/illustrator. You’ll like it if you like fairy tales with happy endings. 🙂


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