Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Monday, December 2, 2013

Colorful Complaints

Among all the papers, embellishments, ribbons, letters, pencils, pens, stamps and doodads I use for making my own greeting cards, is an unused box of 96 crayons. When I open the lid the smell is laden with decades of memories of many other boxes of crayons used with pleasure.  The colors, lined up at attention in rows, are a rainbow of possibilities.

Any size box of crayons offers endless potential for recreating what we see, doodling or filling in the spaces in our favorite coloring books. In my kindergarten years I never drew a picture without a rainbow tucked in somewhere.  To this day I have to stop to look whenever I see one stretched across the sky reminding me they are like opening a box of crayons.

You have to appreciate an author who imagines how the crayons in a box might feel about their individual treatment. The Day the Crayons Quit (Philomel Books, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.) by Drew Daywalt with illustrations by Oliver Jeffers finds twelve crayons in a bit of a dither.  In fact they are so upset they decide to take matters into their own... er...hands.

One day in class, Duncan went
to take out his crayons and found
a stack of letters with his name
on them.

To his surprise (I'm sure), the letters were from his crayons.  The first to air his frustrations is the color red, believing he works harder than the others.  He's absolutely pooped from all the pressure of his efforts on holidays.  No other color is used in the creation of the red-suited guy at Christmas or in all those hearts on Valentine's Day.

Who knew a crayon would nitpick about someone staying within the lines?  Not calling a color by its proper name can send them into a deep depression.  Not using them enough makes a bad situation even worse.

Gray is ever hopeful for smaller subjects to color; he finds whales, elephants and hippos exhausting.  Grumbling with just cause, white and black make solid points; why is the one rarely seen and the other usually seen as a line of varying widths.  One of the calmer, cool as a cucumber crayons, has a concern about two others bickering about the color of the sun.  Needless to say they both have written to Duncan, stating their claims in no uncertain terms.

Being a favorite color is no fun either.  You end up being rather diminished in the height department.  And what about the color that would never be used if it wasn't for Duncan's sister?  Where is Duncan's freedom of expression?  Clever and kindhearted guy that he is, Duncan's resolution is picture perfect but tape or glue might have been needed to fix peach's problem.

Lucky for we readers, it would appear Drew Daywalt has the very special gift of being able to speak and understand "crayon".  Every thought expressed by each of these colors is exactly what we might expect them to say.  Their range of emotional unhappiness or contentedness, in the case of green, is precisely and concisely stated.

It's the word choices, the emphasis, which will make readers laugh.  Even though the crayons are not pleased with Duncan each signs their letter as your _____ friend or your _____ pal.  Here are a couple of sentences from one of the letters.  Can you guess the color?

I'm not even in the rainbow.
I'm only used to color
SNOW or to fill in empty
space between other things.
And it leaves me feeling...
...well...empty.  We need
to talk.

You know you're in for some great artwork with liberal amounts of humorous touches when you read this in the publication information.

The art for this book was made with...um...crayons.

Fully animated, disgruntled, sign-carrying crayons on pieces of lined composition paper displayed across the matching, front and back, jacket and cover give a clear indication of events to come.  Miniature crayons patterned on the opening and closing endpapers continue the theme as does the title page; a single box of crayons closed with several signs lying near, one reading

We're not happy

Each of the letters is depicted on the left-hand side of a two page spread written in the correct color of the crayon having their say.  Different shaped, different styles of, paper provide the backdrop for the letters. If you were looking inside a student's desk at school, this is the kind of paper you might find there.

The childlike drawings on the right-hand side along with the cranky crayons are flawless, lively.  I can't help but wonder if the coloring book pages are real or from the hand of  Oliver Jeffers; the illustrations for this title couldn't be better.  It's a draw as to whether the red pages or the gray pages are my favorite.

I've been saving the reading of The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt with illustrations by Oliver Jeffers for the perfect day.  Yesterday was that day.  I knew it was going to be good but I had no idea how truly playful it would be.  I've read it over and over to myself and aloud.  Voices for each of the colors make it even better.

Please follow the link embedded in Oliver Jeffers name to access his personal website.  This is a link to the International Reading Association site containing an article, Putting Books to Work: Daywalt and Jeffers' THE DAY THE CRAYONS QUIT   In case you have not seen the video about Oliver Jeffers yet, I've included it below.

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