Prather’s Pick: Unhappy crayons
Last week, my sister Darlene Blackford, who lives in Rocky Ford, sent me a clever picture book for children. She thought that my Children’s Literature (college) students and I would enjoy the book. We did enjoy the book — very much — and appreciated the creativity that went into writing and illustrating the story.
“The Day the Crayons Quit” was written by Drew Daywalt and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers. The artwork was done with crayons.
As with many picture books, the story begins on the cover and credit pages. In this case, the reader notices the crayon box on the credit page. A sign propped up against the box has “We are not happy” printed on it. On the cover page of the book, the reader finds four crayons with sad expressions. The orange crayon has his eyes closed and his mouth turned downward. His arms, closed over his crayon body, give him a determined look. He’s had it!
The red crayon is yelling something, one arm up in the air. The blue crayon, shorter than the others (the reader will discover why later on) is holding a sign bearing the author’s name. And the green crayon is studying his wristwatch. He’s propped up on the sign with the illustrator’s name; the sign is upside down.
As the story opens, the reader is about to find out what’s up with the crayons. Duncan, a boy who loves to color, has received a stack of letters all tied up with string. (The reader never gets to see Duncan.) The letters, in various kinds of envelopes, are from crayons. The first one was written by Red Crayon, who thinks he has to work harder than all of the other crayons. He wears himself out coloring fire engines, apples, strawberries and lots more. He even has to work on holidays, like Christmas and Valentine’s Day. The poor crayon needs a rest. The letter is signed, “Your overworked friend, Red Crayon.”
Purple Crayon has a different complaint. He said that Duncan goes outside the lines when he colors the dragons, grapes and wizards’ hats. Purple Crayon is about to “lose it.” Beige Crayon doesn’t like being called “light brown” or “dark tan.” He’s Beige and proud of it. Besides that, he doesn’t think that it’s fair that Brown gets to color all of the bears, horses and puppies while he’s left with the Thanksgiving turkey and wheat.
Blue Crayon has to color so much water and sky that he’s short and stubby. Green Crayon is happy coloring dragons and alligators, but he wishes Duncan would do something about Yellow Crayon and Orange Crayon. They’re no longer speaking because they both think they should be the color of the sun. In short, Yellow Crayon and Orange Crayon are driving the others crazy.
All of the other crayons have complaints, too. Perhaps none of the complaints are as serious as that of Peach Crayon, who has to stay in the box because he’s naked!
So what is Duncan to do? He comes up with a clever idea, a surprise ending to the book.
This is one cute book that is apt to leave kids coloring more than ever.
“The Day the Crayons Quit” is published by Philomel Books, 2013. It costs $17.99 in hardcover.
Author Drew Daywalt is an award-winning writer/director of film and television. His work has been featured on Disney, MTV, FEARnet and Syfy. His favorite crayon is black. Oliver Jeffers likes striped colors best. His books include “Stuck” and “This Moose Belongs to Me.”