A Tree Grows …in Korea! | Elementary Spotlight

Two picture books take on the magic of trees springing up from mere seeds in stories with redemptive themes as well as teaching moments.


Two entries take on the magic of trees springing up from mere seeds in stories with redemptive themes as well as teaching moments.

CHOI, Yangsook. Peach Heaven. illus. by the author. 32p. Farrar. Jul. 2024. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780374391300.
Gr 1-3–Choi looks back to a childhood storm in the mountains of her Korean home that flooded the streets and brought the entire peach harvest raining down on their heads. Because of the water-filled streets, the fruit floated and so was miraculously whole and unblemished. After enjoying tasting, then devouring, peach after peach—the pride of their region—the people realize the devastation brought to the mountain farmers who had intended to harvest the peaches at their peak. A plan is made. But one peach pit survived in Choi’s backyard. An author’s note tells of the single liberty she took with the telling. VERDICT Though first published in 2005, this edition’s new illustrations bring it firmly up to date, in a memoir that reads like a fairy tale of a community touched by a miracle.–Ginnie Abbott

LIU, Linda. Sour Apple. illus. by the author. 40p. Holt. Jul. 2024. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781250835086.
PreS-Gr 4–Whether it’s third grade dodgeball teams or lining up to organize classroom celebrations or even just dance class, no one wants to be picked last. Readers will universally identify with the double-wide green apple who narrates: “I am an apple./ Today is the start of the season./ When every apple’s life finds a reason./ It’s the day when apples get picked from their tree . . ./ . . . everyone EXCEPT ME.” This is painful enough, but the narrator spells out the grief in bold letters: “Why did they not pick me?” Children will be hooked. This is the keening, this is the quest, the great why of childhood, and this apple spells it out. Liu’s splendid Hidden Gemtook on life’s truths from a rockier angle, but this book, in autumnal shades that appear to be stained glass or perhaps torn tissue paper layered to heady textures, takes on Snow White and Sir Isaac Newton, adages (“bad seed,” “keep the doctor away,” “apple of your eye”), recipes, and—nihilism. Educators are free to elucidate every single spread or gloss over what they will, but the creator of this book has taken everything to its essential, ultimate ending. In fact, this bad seed: Not shiny enough? Not tiny enough? The list of why and why not goes on, but the delivery nibbled on, stomped on, finishing last, falls into the deep dark ground and becomes a tree. This book is a showstopper. Every line is a philosophical question or a plunge into science or popular culture. VERDICT For libraries without shelves about late bloomers, start here. A tremendous homage to self-esteem, individuality, thoughtfulness, surrender, and hope.–Ginnie Abbott

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