After a slow start, the author engages the reader in a fast-moving tale of nine-year-old Ying's determination to buy her grandmother an expensive and exotic birthday gift--an apple. Neither Ying nor her grandmother have ever tasted an apple, and Ying plans to save half of it for her enjoyment. The story develops as Ying meets with one problem after another trying to earn enough money so that she can secretly purchase the apple. She must deal with an obstinate cousin, a hateful classmate, and an indifferent shopkeeper. Grandmother's birthday comes and goes without the gift, yet Ying still perserveres. Large, simple illustrations complement the simple style of writing, though several similar Chinese names may be difficult for some readers. This is a sweet story with a moral, and it offers young readers a taste of Chinese culture.
School Library Journal, September 1994
Margaret Chang, North Adams State College, MA
This lively family narrative is set in China's rural south during the1940s, although the war and revolution of the period are not a part of the story,. The first-person account is presented by eight-year-old Yeung Ying, an impulsive, appealing protagonist. When she was five, her mother and father moved to Hong Kong (for reasons that aren't explained), and she has lived with her grandmother in a small village southeast of Canton ever since. As Ah Pau's 71st birthday approaches, Ying discovers that the woman has always wanted to taste an apple, a rare and expensive commodity, and decides to buy one to share with her. Her constantly frustrated efforts to beg, earn, or even steal money will lure readers into her culture. While they will be intrigued to find such a common fruit described as exotic, they will find Ying's relations with her family, friends, and the class bully to be quite familiar. Black-and-white paintings, sometimes embellished with calligraphy, add to the authentic ambiance of the text.
Multicultural Review , September 1995
Melinda Greenblatt, Library Power
Based on the author's childhood experiences in China in the 1940s, this is an episodic narrative that quietly describes daily life in a small village, probably in the years between World War II and the Communist takeover in 1949. There is no mention of war or politics in these pages, but the economic difficulties of a family in Tai Kong, seventy-five miles southeast of Canton, are the focus of this accessible short novel in which village life is accurately portrayed. Ying, a nine-year-old, wants desperately to taste an apple. Because these "unusual" fruits are not grown locally, they are very expensive in the marketplace, unlike the cheap and easily available mangoes and papayas. Because she loves her grandmother Ah Paul, she wants to share this special experience with her. Ying's adventures (and misadventures), while trying to earn enough money to buy the special present, are recounted, including "stealing" plantain plants from someone else's garden. There are other stumbling blocks along the way, but Ying is finally successful in her quest and satisfied with her shared taste of the unusual fruit. The author has dedicated the book to her own grandmother, who inspired the story of the very close, loving relationship between a young girl and the older woman who raised her. Children used to apples as a very ordinary fruit may have some difficulty identifying with Ying's craving, but most readers will recognize Ying's yearning for something she cannot have and her unselfish desire to share the experience with her beloved grandmother.