Middle Grade Book Review: The Widely Unknown Myth of Apple and Dorothy by Core Ann Haydu

Published by The Connected Reader on

An image of the book "The Widely Unknown Myth of Apple and Dorothy" by Corey Ann Haydu. The book has two white girls on the cover in the style of Ancient Greece.

Friends! It’s time for conversation about our February Read Along book. I’m excited to share my thoughts in this middle grade fiction book review and hear what about your experience reading The Widely Unknown Myth of Apple and Dorothy by Corey Ann Haydu.

If you missed it, The Connected Reader community is doing a monthly Read Along in 2024. Our March book is Wandering Stars by Tommy Orange. We swapped our February and March books because Wandering Stars didn’t publish until the end of February. I hope you will read along in March!

Middle Grade Book Review: The Widely Unknown Myth of Apple and Dorothy

The Widely Unknown Myth of Apple and Dorothy imagines a world where a group of near gods leave the heavens of Olympus to live on a hill in the human world. They observe humans and adopt some of their customs, but return to Olympus for a visit on the winter solstice each year to honor the gods and maintain their immortality. Until one year, Penny, a woman in the community, doesn’t return. This action has serious consequences for everyone in the community, especially for Penny’s daughter, Dorothy, and Penny’s best friend’s daughter, Apple.

I am totally biased in this review because I loved how this book made me feel and what it made me feel. And when a book does that, I can’t help but love it. This book was in my top three of 2023 and I was afraid it would not hold up on the second read, but it did. For me, Haydu has created an interesting world in which she explores identity, grief, and friendship – particularly that gnarly kind of tween/teen friendship that finds young girls navigating who they are, who their friends are, and who they want to be.

What Worked For Me

Depiction of Grief

Haydu’s depiction of grief is one of the best I have ever read. The set up lends itself to this – these are near gods navigating the experience and emotions of human loss for the first time. Haydu makes you feel the heaviness of the emotion through the writing right from the beginning through short, direct sentences, the inner voices of 12-year-old Apple and Dorothy, and the helplessness and avoidance of the adults, primarily Dorothy’s father and Apple’s mother. You carry that heaviness all the way through until the light does creep in at the very end (no spoilers – this is a middle grade novel, so we assume a happy-ish ending).

Depiction of Friendship

I also appreciated Haydu’s depiction of friendship. Throughout the book, Haydu uses the adult friendship between Penny and her best friend Heather to interrogate how a friendship works between two people who are very different. Haydu uses the adolescent friendship between Dorothy and Apple to explore how this type of relationship can be one-sided, when one friend leads and the other follows, and also how it can expand and change as the individuals expand and change. This is another place where Haydu’s ability to capture an authentic 12-year-old inner voice is on display.

What I’m Curious About

One thing I’m curious about – and when I read it with my book club last year, it was a lingering question – is how this book would land with actual tweens. It’s a middle grade or juvenile fiction book, which means it’s marketed to 8-12 year olds. When I think of my own almost 9-year-old, I’m not sure if I would put it in her hands quite yet, because of the heaviness of the emotion. I wonder if it is best-suited for children more toward the middle to older side of this age-range. That said, maybe it’s that different ages will just take different things from it; it could be the heaviness I feel is because I am an adult, with half a life-time of experience and grief, reading the story. Now this is making me excited to read this again in the future with my child.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, meaning I get a small commission if you decide to make a purchase through my links, at no cost to you. Even if you don’t use the links, I highly recommend checking out Bookshop.org and Libro.fm for access to tons of titles while still supporting an indie bookstore.

Categories: Book Reviews


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