Inspired by the life of a woman now living in California and subtitled ""A Vietnamese Wartime Childhood,"" this is an affecting child's-eye view of the disruptions of war. A girl and her younger brother revel in the company of Ong Noi, their father's father and a village herb doctor, who has come to stay with them while their father is away fighting. The book's title comes from the costly (and, to the children, irresistible) imported apples that Ong Noi uses to mask the taste of his bitter herbal medicines. As the war draws nearer, the prose grows more tense and the pictures darker, until one spread erupts in a maelstrom of napalm. Ong Noi, ill and exhausted from treating the wounded, and saving no medicine for himself, dies. The children and their mother join the refugees streaming toward the coast to become what American readers will recognize as ""boat people."" Breckler (Hoang Breaks the Lucky Teapot, 1992) tells the story skillfully, in simple, first-person prose. Ray's watercolors emphasize the contrast between the lush serenity of the prewar landscape and the ashen waste of the wartime countryside and leaden ocean carrying the family toward an uncertain future.