The Day the Crayons Quit
By Drew Daywalt; illustrations by Oliver Jeffers
Okay, it’s truth time. So my older brother and I were coloring book fanatics. I’m talking the BIG ones kids used to get at Christmas with a box of the 64 Crayola selections of crayons with every color imaginable including “Burnt Umber”. Is this even used anymore? I loved it for roan horses. Certain colors may even have been retired since then, and others added to replace the retirees.
So when I laid my hands on the picture book “The Day the Crayons Quit” I let out with a slight “COMING HOME AGAIN” sigh and my heart sang. This is a wonderful book with heart, happiness and even a bit of pathos for those who labor on paper day and night, the ones who are used continually, and those that rarely get outside the box in order to color OUTSIDE the lines. I’m talking CRAYONS here!
We all know that most children have rich inner lives that parents can sometimes only guess at, and glimpse only when they sometimes allow us a peek inside their world apart. But who knew CRAYONS did? This imaginative, and dare I say it, colorful book, gives kids and parents a delightfully written rare look into the sometimes hilariously angst-filled world of the lowly crayon.
Young Duncan wants to color one day and attached to the top of his crayon box are a neatly piled sheaf of letters, tied with red and white string sent from the ‘collective of crayons’. They have some ISSUES they’d like to speak to young Duncan about. For instance, the more widely used colors such as RED are well, tired of coloring fire engines, strawberries, apples, Santa at Christmas, not to mention all those Valentine’s Day HEARTS! “I need a rest”, says the overworked “rouge red”. Wait that may be a separate shade of RED!
BEIGE has a whole separate set of gripes. Even his posture is bent and he seems disconsolate and defeated as he recounts his attempts to define himself. “I’m tired of being called “light brown” or Dark tan” because I am neither. I am BEIGE and I am proud.” You go, BEIGE.
Even WHITE questions her “raison d’etre”. Why color with me at all, she reasons, as I’m the same color as the paper! Snow seems to be the mainstay of her usage and, to make the point clearer, “I’m not even in the rainbow.” This sadly leaves WHITE feeling “empty”. BLACK on the other hand is crabby about constantly being used as the outline for other things. “How about a BLACK beach ball sometime.” “Is that too much to ask”?
Did you know that some crayons even have to act as referees? Enter the color GREEN. Appearing quite happy as the color of choice of crocodiles, trees, dinosaurs, and frogs, Green pleads with Duncan to act as a mediator to bring harmony to the crayon box. Seems ORANGE and YELLOW no longer speak as they battle it out over which is truly the color of the SUN.
My favorite is PINK who is patently indignant, as Duncan has not used it ONCE in the past year? Is it, PINK complains, BECAUSE I AM A GIRL COLOR! Here we have a crayon that is not timid about asserting the need for Duncan to try a PINK dinosaur once in a while.
And my next favorite is PEACH, chiding Duncan for peeling the wrapper off the crayon. This is a crayon too embarrassed to leave the box!
Each of the twelve crayons has their time to shine and have their say. Who knew that crayons have feelings just like you and me? Kids will take to this book immediately and perhaps have a new respect for the lined up colors in the box that are at their beck and call. It may encourage them to see colors with a personality all their own as they transfer it to paper – and take some color chances of their own.
Oliver Jeffers, illustrator of “Stuck” and “This Moose Belongs to Me” has hit a home run with his ability to portray the personality of each crayon with drawings of typical things a child might draw, in the way a child might draw it. Drew Daywalt captures to perfection the complaints of each, neatly hand printed with each word written in the color of the crayon!
The sweetly imaginative, and sometimes indignant voices given to each CRAYON, as they in turn hold forth on the dilemmas faced in the world of color, are by turns, hilarious, humbling and heroic – much like the lives of many of the children that hold the crayons in their hands. Bravo BURNT UMBER, wherever you may be! You made me happy. So will your young reader be with this book in hand this summer.
P.S. For those adults out there like me who have not lost their love of coloring there is a series of books by Ruth Heller that features things to color such as wild flowers, feathers, shapes, leaves, ornaments and, one solely for spring, called “Spring Has Sprung.” Color me happy!
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