The Almost Terrible Playdate by Richard Torrey

Author-illustrator Richard Torrey‘s latest children’s picture book The Almost Terrible Playdate (2016, Doubleday Books for Young Readers) just came out last month. I’m not saying my younger brother and I ever argued over what to play, but I do know that anyone who has tried to play with a sibling or friend who did not share your idea of fun can relate to this book. So what I’m saying is basically everyone can relate to this book!

Here’s a quick summary. Purple girl and green boy want to play what is in each of their crayon-colored thought bubbles.  More interested in their ideas for the playdate, these two are not finding much common ground. The playdate is not going well.  But just when it seems like these two will never be able to play together they figure out a way to combine their play fantasies in a way that makes the playdate more fun.

I really liked the energy in the book. Torrey creates a fast-paced storyline that moves readers through what seems like an awful playdate. The illustrations are great; I love the crayon-drawing thought bubbles that are monochromatic until the kids decide to play together. Part of Torrey’s brilliance is to take a story that we’re all pretty familiar with (this idea of kids not wanting to play together) and even one that we’re all pretty sure will end in a certain way (with the kids playing together) and make it entertaining and still seem somewhat original. There is definitely a lesson to this book but Torrey doesn’t hit readers over the head with it. I like that the book’s beginning and final pages are framed with the same questions by the two kids: “What do you want to play?”

Here are some teaching ideas:

(1) Have kids pick a color that represents themselves and another color that represents their sibling or friend. Have kids use both colors to create a scene in which these siblings or friends are playing together.

(2) If you teach older kids and like to use children’s book to set up more complex exercises, you can share this book with your students to set up a lesson on character traits. Then, you can ask students to select two characters and draw their motivations in thought bubbles.

Let me know what you think if The Almost Terrible Playdate in the comments below!

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