Clara Lee and the Apple Pie Dream


By Jenny Han

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Meet Clara Lee.

Likes: her best friends, her grandpa, her little sister (when she’s not being annoying, which is almost always), candy necklaces, and the Apple Blossom Festival.

Dislikes: her little sister (when she’s being annoying, which is almost always), her mom’s yucky fish soup, and bad dreams (even though Grandpa says they mean good luck).

After a bad dream, Clara Lee has a whole day of good luck. But when her luck changes, she upsets her friends and family. Will Clara Lee have good luck again in time to try out for the Little Miss Apple Pie pageant?

Clara Lee is a delightful character from acclaimed author Jenny Han. This charming, humorous chapter book is perfect for fans of Clementine and Judy Moody!


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Table of Contents

Copyright Page

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When I woke up that morning and saw the red and gold leaves swirling around my backyard, I just knew it was gonna be my kind of day. We started collecting leaves early in the morning, and by afternoon, we had three very nice, fat piles. My best friend, Shayna; my little sister, Emmeline; and me, Clara Lee. Clara Lee is my name, first and last. All the kids at school call me Clara Lee and not just Clara. It just sounds better that way. Like peanut butter and jelly, like trick-or-treat, or fairy and princess, those words just go together. Just like me, Clara Lee.

Later on, we would jump in our leaf piles, but first, we were playing a game I made up called Fall Royalty. Shayna is Queen, Emmeline is Prince, and I am the King of Fall.

"Why do you always get to be king?" Emmeline complained. She loves to complain; it's her favorite hobby. She is six. She's small for her age. A runt, like Wilbur from Charlotte's Web. I call her that when no one's listening. It really makes her mad. She has chubby cheeks and round button eyes and everybody thinks she is just the cutest thing ever. But not me. I can see through her like plastic wrap.

"It's not fair," she whined.

"I'm the one who made up the game," I reminded her. "If you don't want to play, you can go and help Grandpa—"

Emmeline pushed her bottom lip out a smidge but didn't argue. She scooped another leaf off the ground and added it to her pile.

I picked a brownish leaf out of the pile. "Not bright enough," I declared, in my best King of Fall voice.

Emmeline put her hands on her hips. "Just because you're the king—," she started to say. Then she looked over at Shayna. "Shayna, do you think it's fair that Clara Lee gets to be king?"

"I would rather be queen any day," Shayna said, fixing her crown of leaves so it set just right on her head. "Why don't you be princess instead of prince this time?"

"Princesses are boring," Emmeline said. And then she threw her handful of leaves in the air and danced around our pile. She bounced around like a kangaroo, shook her hips from side to side, and moved her arms like she was doing the backstroke.

Shayna and I looked at each other and shrugged. And then we threw our leaves in the air too, and we danced like Emmeline danced.

After all the dancing, it was time for me to make my toast to fall. I had already practiced it that morning when I brushed my teeth. "Ahem. Now the king will make a toast." I paused dramatically. I lifted the jug of apple cider that my mom had brought out for us.

"A toast? But we already had breakfast," Emmeline whispered to Shayna.

"A toast is a speech," Shayna explained.

"Then why didn't she just say speech?"

"Quiet, the both of you!" I boomed. Shayna glared at me, and I mouthed, Sorry. Then I cleared my throat. "Fall is a time of change. The seasons are changing. Soon it will be cold. But we will always, always remember the fall, because it is the best time of year. Amen."

Emmeline crossed her eyes at me. She learned that talent very recently, and now she does it every opportunity she gets, because she knows I can't. Emmeline said, "I like summer the best."

"Do not disrespect fall," I told her, taking a swig from the jug. Then I passed it to Shayna, who sipped it in her ladylike way. Then she passed it to Emmeline, who drank almost half of it.

Our leaf piles were looking good, so I said, "Ready?"

Shayna and Emmeline yelled, "Ready!"

We all jumped into our piles at the same time. It was like jumping into a cloud of fall. Leaves floated in the air like snowflakes. We three couldn't stop screaming, it was so fun.

After a lot of jumping, we laid down on our leaf piles. It was getting dark. We would have to go inside soon. That was the only bad thing about fall. It got dark so darned quick.

"Clara Lee?" Shayna's leaf pile was in the middle, right in between Emmeline and me.


"Apple Blossom Festival is coming up really soon. Are you going to try out for Little Miss Apple Pie?"

"I don't know. Haven't even thought about it," I lied.

"That's a lie, Clara Lee!" said Emmeline. "I saw you practicing your wave yesterday."

I told her, "You shouldn't spy on people."

She was right though. I'd thought about it plenty.

Apple Blossom Festival was right around the corner. It was always at the beginning of October. It kicks off the whole holiday season. We've got Apple Blossom Festival, then Halloween, then Thanksgiving, then Christmas. We're so lucky.

I'd say Apple Blossom Festival is a pretty big deal in Bramley. There's apple bobbing in the town square, and at the booths, they've got caramel apples and candy apples and just about every kind of apple you can think of. Plenty of Bramley Seedlings, which is what our town is named for.

One of my favorite things is the apple dessert contest. Usually it's good stuff, like Mrs. Kollmann's German apple cake, and apple turnovers, and apple cider doughnuts. Last year, Mrs. Novak made an apple pie with a cheddar cheese whipped cream, and it made me nervous on apple pie. Grandpa liked it though. He even had seconds. I think he was the only person in the whole town who had seconds on that cheesy pie.

There's even a parade, with floats. Only Very Important People get to ride on the floats. Like Mr. Cooper who owns Cooper's Drugstore, he has a float. The YMCA has a float. The mayor is on a float. The firemen too. But most important of all is Miss Apple Pie and Little Miss Apple Pie.

Miss Apple Pie is pretty much a dream come true. Only when you're a high school girl can you be Miss Apple Pie; the whole high school votes on who gets to be her. You wear a red sash and a tiara with little red apples on top. You wave, and you throw apple candy at the crowd. Everyone cheers for you. Little Miss Apple Pie gets to stand next to her and hold the bag of candy. She gets to wear a sash too, and a tiara that is less fancy but still beautiful.

Last year, Trudie Turner from the fifth grade was Little Miss Apple Pie. Since I'm only in the third grade, I don't know her, but she looked pretty good up there on the float. Her hair was curled and tied back with red ribbon. Miss Apple Pie was a high school girl with long blonde hair and she wore a red dress and red high heels. She looked like a girl in a commercial.

If I won, I knew just what I'd wear. The dress Grandpa bought me in Korea last year. It's Korean style, with a skirt the color of fruit punch and a white jacket with rainbow-striped sleeves and, best of all, a long bow. I've only ever worn it on New Year's Day, and I felt like a Korean princess from long ago. Emmeline has one too, but hers is a navy jacket. I could almost picture it: me, in my Korean dress, on that float.


  • * "This is a delightful book that will have readers looking for more adventures featuring Clara Lee and her friends."—Library Media Connection (starred review)
  • * "Han...captures an 8-year-old's perspective perfectly...The message shines through but doesn't overwhelm this engaging chapter book that will be welcomed by middle-grade fans of Clementine."—Kirkus (starred review)
  • "Sparkly and cheerful...Numerous black-and-white illustrations provide newly independent readers with both plot clues and speedy page turns in this winning chapter book."—The Horn Book
  • "Clara Lee thinks, speaks, and acts just like the third grader she is in this charming early chapter book. Black-and-white drawings, some full page and some spot art, feature the child, her dilemmas, and her successes. Fans of Clementine will enjoy this endearing character."—School Library Journal
  • "The funniest interludes are her credible interactions with her younger sister; Clara Lee's memorable descriptions, such as the "limp green bean kind of hug" she gives her grandfather when she's feeling down, will endear her to readers."—Publishers Weekly
  • "Readers will delight in this American-as-apple-pie third grader as she follows her BIG DREAM in a string of heartfelt adventures as perfect as an unbroken candy necklace."—Megan McDonald, author of the Judy Moody series
  • "I really loved Clara Lee. This is a compact little book with a big heart."—Linda Sue Park, Newbery Award-winning author of A Single Shard
  • "In this marvel of a book, Clara Lee shows us what it means to receive a shot of Good Luck, and at the same time she also learns how to be a better friend, granddaughter, and sister. It all adds up."—Kathi Appelt, Newbery Honor author ofThe Underneath and Keeper
  • "I love Clara Lee's surprising and dead-on similes and metaphors and her fun play on words! I also love how she's totally ethno-cool and totally American. Way to go, Clara Lee!"—Lenore Look, author of the Ruby Lu and Alvin Ho series

On Sale
Jan 14, 2014
Page Count
160 pages

Jenny Han

About the Author

Jenny Han grew up in Richmond, Virginia and went to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She moved to NYC for graduate school and received her MFA in Writing for Children at the New School. She is the author of books such as Shug and the New York Times bestselling Summer Series. She currently lives in Brooklyn. Her website is

Julia Kuo grew up in Chatsworth, California. After studying illustration and marketing at Washington University in St. Louis, she started working as a greeting card designer at American Greetings. She currently splits her time between Chicago and Taiwan. Her website is

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