Apples Trees and Apologies: A Review of Rita & Ralph’s Rotten Day

Rita & Ralph’s Rotten Day
Written by Carmen Agra Deedy and illustrated by Pete Oswald
Ages 4-8 years
Published by Scholastic Press
Available March 3, 2020

Rita and Ralph are best buds who always meet at the apple tree equidistant between their two houses, and spend their days playing games and making daisy chains. But an accident and hurt feelings leave Rita mad and Ralph sorry, but then their roles reverse and then flip again, all while traveling up and down the many hills between their two houses. Only when they’ve exhausted their emotions, can they meet in the middle again and blurt out exactly what they want to say, “I’m sorry.”

Carmen Agra Deedy takes on the familiar fingerplay, “Mr. Wiggle & Mr. Waggle,” and roots it in a relatable story, deepening and enriching it. The actions and feelings flow quickly: an accident leads to hurt noggins, which leads to hurt feelings, which leads to anger, which leads to frustration, which also leads to guilt, which also leads to missing your friend! Quite a ride, but as any caregiver knows: this is part of learning and understanding emotions. After all, who hasn’t caused hurt and felt bad—and who hasn’t let unresolved anger overflow into other things? The song-like nature of the words belies just how complex feelings can be. Pete Oswald’s pitch-perfect drawings are an excellent complement to this complexity. The images are inextricably linked to the up-the-hill-and-down-the-hill refrains. The characters’ eyebrows and wide eyes convey those ever-changing emotions, while the whimsical apple dotted hillside remains bright and safe enough to house those large and upsetting feelings.

In the back portion of the picture book is a supplementary hand game manual, detailing how to incorporate hand gestures into telling this tale.