Hemingway’s story of friendship against the odds is sweet, but it has hitched its wagon to a very challenging vehicle.
Mac is an apple, a polished piece of perfection, but he's an easygoing, humble bit of applehood. He enjoys art classes and a slow drift down the neighborhood stream. He likes a spring rain and is napping in the drizzle one day when a worm by the name of Will seeks shelter from the storm in Mac’s head (Mac is pretty much all head). They become fast friends, with Will living in a hole he drilled in Mac’s head. This just seems weird, not to mention painful. When the other apples in the neighborhood start giving Mac grief—“And no one in the orchard would play with them. NOT EVEN the crab apples. Crab apples can be so mean”—calling him a bad apple, readers will feel protective toward the little red guy. And it doesn’t hurt, sympathy-wise, that the characters and settings are lusciously drawn. But still, there's that that hole in the head. Mac also has an image problem: “Mac knew he’d rather be a Bad Apple with Will than a sad apple without him,” which compromises the whole notion of the beauty of friendship. He’s not a bad apple, he’s a good apple, uncontaminated by the pesticide of a culture that tells us only the glossily unblemished are worth a hoot.
A mixed message shopped in a queasy jacket. (Picture book. 3-5)