Review: The Apple Argument

The Apple Argument

by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Anita Barghigiani

Kar-Ben Publishing (imprint of Lerner Publishing Group), 2024

Category: Picture Books
Reviewer: Rachel J. Fremmer

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The Apple Argument is a modern midrash, a backstory to the tales told in the Torah. With richly colored, appropriately lush illustrations by Anita Barghighiani, Jane Yolen spins a story explaining why we must work to coax food from the land. As the fruits bicker over which one of them is best overall, just like people so often do, each cites their strongest quality but fails to recognize that their varied strengths combine to create something better together - a fruit salad perhaps? In a scene relatable to any parent, an exasperated G-d leaves the scene, saying, “I will move far away so I do not need to hear you.” Human laziness - not curiosity - is the driver in this version of the Eden story, resulting in Adam and Eve finding it easier to “pluck the Fruits from the trees and Vines” than digging the Vegetables out of the ground. Unfortunately, neither the human tendency toward laziness nor our tendency towards competition, jealousy, and argument has been overcome.

But in a lovely twist (pun intended!), Yolen points out the people who bring out the best in others by comparing them to the Citron (a lemon? etrog?), which makes each of the other Fruits taste better with just one squeeze.

The Apple Argument is a beautiful book that follows in the long rabbinic midrasnhic tradition. As such, although it does not feature Jewish characters or Jewish observance, it is undoubtedly a very Jewish book.

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Reviewer Rachel J. Fremmer is a lawyer-turned-elementary-school librarian. She is a native-and-forever New Yorker and lives there with her husband and two daughters, ages 18 and 16, who are rapidly outgrowing her area of book expertise. She is continually inspired by the city even though apartment living means she is running out of room for her picture book collection. She was selected by PJ Library for their inaugural Picture Book Summer Camp for Emerging Writers. When she is not reading or writing, she is baking or doing crossword puzzles.