By Elaine Ferrell of Ferrell’s Foibles
Since I read Ten Apples Up on Top! ten times a day, here is a book review about it, because it makes me feel less dumb:
What begins as a simple balancing challenge for an apple-loving, bipedal lion quickly devolves into an interspecies competition of whose neck is the strongest. Yet the three animals — once antagonists — find common ground through the joy of apple balancing and the thrill of risking their lives by skating with them on top of their heads.
Their once child-like exploits turn into an obsession, even an addiction, as they begin to steal apples from strangers’ kitchens, simply to continue their balancing acts. Now with a total of thirty apples atop their collective heads, our antiheroes then endure their most challenging athletic feat yet, as they are chased out of the house, and in fact the town, without letting any apples fall.
Their foes continue to chase them because, duh, they stole apples! Their chasers — all bears — become larger and angrier (and are briefly joined by birds, who don’t care that the apples were stolen; they just want a snack). The unlucky trio is then trapped between a hoard of bears and a wall (in the form of an apple cart).
As with most children’s stories, however, the ending is happy and nonsensical: All characters upset the proverbial and literal cart and all of them, chasers and chased alike, along with the apple cart driver, end up with ten perfectly stacked apples on top of their heads. They all quip in unison, as if in a musical, that they will not let them fall. Presumably, then, they spend all their time keeping the apples up on top of their heads, and theoretically production plummets.
The lesson for kids is it’s fine to steal things as long as you absolutely need them to prove you’re better than everyone else, or if you’re feeding an addiction. Also, holding 25 pounds on top of your head is totally fine for your health.
Apples: Like for Eve in Eden or Snow White in Fairytale Land, the apples are highly sought after and highly dangerous. No one can escape their power. Every character who starts balancing them on their head is addicted at once, and cannot explain the sudden obsession they have with not letting them ever fall off.
Keeping apples on one’s heads becomes more important than anything. Further, the redness of the apples represents the passion the characters have, either for piling them on top of their heads, or for getting back the ones that are rightfully theirs.
Heights: In several places in the story, characters test height. Using tree branches, telephone wires, and the second story of a house, characters use height as a measure of how brave they are. Carrying apples on one’s head is evidently not enough. They have to prove they can also be higher while counting them.
In this story, height clearly exemplifies ambition: the higher you get, the better you become. This is clear in the book’s title; it’s not enough to have ten apples, but they must be on top.
Bears: Although our antiheroes are composed of a lion, dog, and tiger, everyone attacking them is a bear. (Except for one page where seagulls are trying to eat the apples, but they have different motives than the townfolk bears: hunger.)
Lions and tigers are typically carnivorous, but in Ten Apples Up on Top!, bears are clearly the alpha species. They are property owners, apple cart drivers, and order-makers. Where did the antiheroes come from? We know nothing of their background, but we can infer that bears make up the livelihood of the town. Thus, the bears have all the power. If you’re not a bear, you’re a criminal.
About the Author
Elaine Ferrell is a working mom of 2 under 3. She lives in the DC suburbs with her family and dog, and is not a professional writer, but aspires to be one in her ample free time (ha, ha). When not stepping on toys, picking sippy cups off the floor, or writing, Elaine enjoys cooking, binge watching reruns of 30 Rock and The West Wing, and having adult conversations with adult friends. Her work has been featured in Blunt Moms and Pregnant Chicken. You can reach her through Twitter @ferrellwithan_e and through her blog, ferrellfoibles.wordpress.com.