THE DAY THE CRAYONS QUIT by Drew Daywalt, illustrated by Oliver Jeffers (Philomel)
Duncan receives a series of letters from disgruntled crayons. Red crayon feels overworked, even doing the lion's share on holidays (Valentine's Day hearts and Santa suits), and blue needs a break from coloring-in entire oceans. A slightly OCD purple crayon requests that Duncan colors inside the lines (for a change). Some crayons feel like they are not meeting their full potential: grey can do more detailed jobs, not just elephants and humpback whales; black is good for more than outlines; yellow and orange have an ongoing conflict over the color of the sun; pink has a grievance about gender bias (ever hear of a pink dinosaur, already?!) and peach doesn't appreciate being peeled. Green remains calm and satisfied ("I...wish to congratulate you on a very successful 'coloring things green' career so far"). Like any good leader, Duncan takes all feedback into consideration, and the story culminates in a vibrant double-page spread in which all the hues get their dues.
|Image courtesy of The Cozy Little Book Journal|
Also of interest:MY BLUE IS HAPPY by Jessica Young, illustrated by Catia Chien (Candlewick). An art teacher friend of mine came to me last spring with a pile of required assessments in which she was supposed to determine if her students correctly corresponded color and mood (i.e. red = angry). She was chagrined, explaining that response to color was not a thing to be graded, but rather, "different colors meant different things to different people." If you agree with that statement, this is a good book for you. For some people, brown may be a plain paper bag. For others, it is chocolate syrup being squirted on to chocolate ice cream, or a piece of earth waiting to be gardened. For some, yellow may be "cheery...like the summer sun," but to the little girl in the book, it is "worried/Like a wilting flower/And a butterfly caught in a net." When I first saw this book, I confess that I thought, "Oh, sighhh, another 'color' book, some knock off of Seuss' MY MANY COLORED DAYS," but I was wrong. Besides being heaven-sent for a bedtime story, a library circle or for a gentle introduction of metaphor in a classroom, this work is oddly subversive (maybe the book creators know it, see the little girl winking on the cover?), and surprisingly evocative, both in its beautiful language and Chien's washy spreads (already a huge fan of this illustrator since she decorated Dashka Slater's THE SEA SERPENT AND ME). Blue, in this case, is definitely happy, embracing out-of-the-box thinking and the collapse of cliché, this returns proprietary rights to the reaction of color--and the world-- back to individuals, where it arguably belongs. Sorry, test designers. (4 and up)
This post is dedicated to the Chicago Public School art teachers and school librarians who were displaced/lost their jobs this year. Thank you, your work is still so very important. Trust you will find your place in the world of working with children again and soon. Thank you to everyone who supports the arts and literacy in the public schools.
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