At 13,519 ratings, 4 and a bit stars and 1,957 reviews on Goodreads alone, you have to have had your head in a bucket not to have heard about this 2013 Choice Winner, released with a fanfare in 2013. And here I go, adding my voice to the chorus.
My daughter was given The Day the Crayons Quit on her sixth birthday and it has been one of the most-requested titles in her (extensive) library ever since. I must have read this at least a couple of hundred times by now. Even though a slight sigh just made it’s way onto the page (see it?) I know it could’ve been worse. For all I love Dr Seuss, it might have been Hop on Pop. Or fairy-fare. It’s a true test of a children’s picture book that it can prevail without quietly “disappearing” at the hands of a mind-numbed adult. Okay – I admit I’ve sometimes accidentally turned two pages instead of one.
This is Daywalt’s first book – and it’s good. One day in class Duncan takes out his crayons and finds a stack of letters with his name on them. Red complains of overwork and never getting a holiday – he has to colour hearts on Valentines and Santas at Christmas. Pedant purple urges Duncan to colour more carefully. Beige bends like the wheat he complains he’s relegated to colouring while big brown “gets all the bears, ponies and puppies”.
Gray is tired. Gray mammals are pretty big mostly – whales and elephants and the like. He suggests baby penguins or pebbles. White feels empty because he’s not even really a colour and is only defined by filling in the spaces between things and black complains of only ever defining things and not filling in spaces. Yellow and orange fight about who is the real colour of the sun. Blue complains of such occupational overuse (big skies, rivers and oceans) that he’s too stubby to see over the railing in the crayon box. Pink suffers from gender bias and longs to colour monsters and dinosaurs instead of princesses. Peach is too embarrassed to leave the crayon box ever since Duncan tore off his wrapper.
So it’s not so much that the crayons quit (although that’s a catchy title). There’s no collective conciousness here – more a litany of complaint. And a few of the crayons complain about the same things (which is why sometimes I accidentally turn two pages instead of one). Duncan obliges by drawing a double page spread that honours most of these requests (with the exception of red, gray and blue who, as my daughter delights in pointing out, just have to suck it up). I personally love the black rainbow but then, I’m a grown up…
Warm and clever, the story is brought alive by Jeffers’ brilliant monochromatic illustrations. There’s a naive, scribbly kid-ness to his drawings, showcased by plenty of white space and quality production. Despite my over-exposure to this book I still love the drawing of poor old beige crayon – bent like the wheat he so deplores colouring and I delight in my little girl’s chortling at poor old peach crayon, stripped naked and stuck in the box.
Buy or borrow for a read-aloud 4-7 or independent reading 6 +.