Granny Smith Was Not an Apple

Peter Pauper. Sept. 2023. 32p. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9781441339447.
Gr 2-5–In this thoughtfully rendered work of narrative nonfiction, Fortson introduces Maria Ann Smith, a 19th-century English woman and traveling laborer who is “raised tough to the core.” Readers follow Smith as she works at different farms and orchards doing whatever work is needed: “She will plow or pick or prune. She will shear or shuck or shell.” She also helps deliver babies, which leads to her nickname, Granny Smith. Upon accepting an offer to relocate to Australia, Smith and her family brave a difficult voyage with hopes of a better life. McLeod’s burnished illustrations convey the passing of time as Smith’s hair turns from dark brown to light gray and she slowly grows her own orchard. It is here that she accidentally develops a new apple variety by nurturing a seedling found in her scrap pile. By highlighting keywords and using illustrated text boxes, Fortson weaves in historical facts about farming practices, midwifery, pollination, and includes primary source material about Smith’s travel to Australia. McLeod’s illustrations center on the figure of Smith while showing the changes in her surrounding landscape. The earth tone palette and soft quality of the illustrations complement the text while evoking the feeling of looking back in time. The book ends with a note to adults acknowledging the devastating impact of British colonization on the Indigenous peoples of Australia, which may encourage further research and create a path for discussions of the history not included in the book.
VERDICT In language that is clear, engaging, and easy to follow, this books shares the mostly untold story of the life of a woman traveling laborer in the 1800s and the story behind the cherished green apple.

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