Saying sorry can be difficult, but it's worth every awkward, teeth-gritting effort, as two friends discover in Carmen Agra Deedy and Pete Oswald's gratifying, on-point picture book, Rita and Ralph's Rotten Day.
Every day, best friends Rita and Ralph travel "down the hill, and up the hill, and down the hill, and up the hill" to meet under the apple tree between their houses. Then, one fateful day, an ill-conceived game of Sticks and Stones results in a head bump. "This was bad. Really bad. So they ran away." Rita is mad. Ralph is sorry he hurt Rita. He wants to apologize. But by the time he makes the long, tiring walk to Rita's house, he's a "smidge grumpy" and his apology doesn't quite come across as genuine. And when Rita walks to Ralph's house, feeling sorry about her response, she can't manage an apology either. It's not until the rotten day ends and a new day dawns that the friends figure out how to "meet in the middle."
Rita and Ralph's tiff, told with a sweet freshness, is a timeless, engaging tale with which any young reader is likely to identify. Their friendship is the real thing, evidenced by their joy in meeting each day. Oswald's gouache and digital rendering of the pals depicts them joyously airborne as they high-five, and the landscape format of the book shows the distances to which they'll go to spend time together. Cuban-born Deedy is the author of 14 Cows for America and the Pura Belpré-honored Martina the Beautiful Cockroach, among many other much-loved books. Fine-arts painter, animator, author and illustrator Oswald's previous works include The Bad Seed (by Jory John). Rita and Ralph's Rotten Day is their first team effort. We hope it's not their last. --Emilie Coulter, freelance writer and editor