Monday, 19 May 2014

The Day the Crayons Quit, by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers

Disaster has struck: Duncan’s colouring crayons have gone on strike. They are missing in action, gone into hiding, leaving behind just a pile of letters detailing their grievances.

Pink is sick of being thought of as a ‘girly’ colour, Black would like to be used for more than just drawing outlines, Orange and Yellow are having a show-down about who should be used to colour the sun, while Blue is tired out and would really like a rest, please. What can Duncan do to stop the arguing and make all the crayons happy again?

The Day the Crayons Quit (written by Drew Daywalt and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers) is a lovely idea to get both adults and children thinking outside the box. Why have we stereotyped our crayons? Why do we - by habit? by social decree? – only use certain colours for certain things? Who says that art has to be based directly on reality?

This is a really simple idea, very effectively done. The bulk of the story constitutes, on one side of the page, a letter written by the crayon in question, with crayoned drawings on the opposite page demonstrating the letter’s grievances. Many of the drawings are wonderfully child-like, and are accompanied by a characterized image of crayon itself either looking huffy or tired or grumpy, depending on why they’re upset. Who knew you could make crayons look emotional?

I also like how the letters have been written out in real letter form with crayon and then photographed for the book, showing contrast between the letter and the rest of the image, as well as blending together the words of the story into the illustrative style. I think it’s probably quite unique.

So how does Duncan solve the problem and get he’s crayons talking not just to each other again, but to him too? Well, by colouring things in a little differently, of course. Turn to the penultimate page to see the result, which is a bright and eclectic image of lots of different things all happening at once, including a pink dinosaur, a white sea-cat, a black rainbow, and multi-coloured hearts. Something for everyone. Brilliant.

Time to get your colouring crayons out and see what you can come up with that is outside the box…

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