Rita & Ralph's Rotten Day by Carmen Agra Deedy and Pete Oswald

Happy Tuesday! Carmen Agra Deedy and Pete Oswald dropped by to chat with me about Rita & Ralph's Rotten Day's cover, zombie tag, Sherry Norfolk, Diane Hess, and more. I wrote the words in purple, Carmen wrote the words in black, and Pete wrote the words in green. Thank you, Carmen and Pete! 

Pete Oswald's cover art for Rita & Ralph's Rotten Day gives just enough away to make one want to open the page––it does exactly what cover art should do for a picture book! But the BACK cover? Boy howdy! I love it so, I think I’ll make Pete a daisy chain to hang around his neck.

Rita and Ralph love to cha-cha, make daisy chains, play zombie tag, and generally goof off, as is the inherent right of every kid. Unfortunately, even when you're trying to "play nice," things can go wrong in a hurry. What are two best-friends-a-minute-ago-but-not-on-your-life-now supposed to do when that happens?

How do you say "I'm sorry," and mean it?

The story is about friendship. No, wait!

It's about saying you're sorry. Hold on a minute!

It's about traveling up and down--no, that's not right.

Why don't you kids read it and tell ME what you think it's about?


That sounds right.

Sherry Norfolk is a librarian and story teller par excellence. She's also the friend who taught me "Mr. Wiggle & Mr. Waggle." It’s an old hand game used by librarians to focus small, adorable, and sometimes feral, toddlers. Story hour is not for the weak of spine. In any event, my grands loved going up and down the hill with their thumbs––and, just as I and other storytellers often do with folk and fairy tales––I adapted the hand game to fit this story. It was heaps of fun and, frankly, reminded me that when someone disagrees with me, it doesn't mean they're wrong.

The moment I read Carmen's manuscript, I felt connected and inspired, both with the message and what I thought the visuals could add. The characters' emotions are relatable as well as the story. Her text is descriptive yet still simple. And the repetitive structure of the book makes it fun to read!

Carmen has a way of humanizing her characters and I wanted the visuals to reflect that. Therefore we focused on facial expressions and character poses to compliment her text. To bring a fresh palette to each page, we highlighted the time of day with varying tones. We also added visual touches that weren't in the text in order to create more depth.

The hand gestures in the back of the book are just a fun way for the reader to connect with the characters.

Diane Hess, Marjika Kostiw, Catherine Weening, and Shannon Rice… Collaborating with this dream team at Scholastic has been inspiring and I'm looking forward to seeing future projects.

Look for Rita & Ralph's Rotten Day on March 3, 2020. 


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