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Crayons Who Have Grievances, Quit, Then Eventually Came Home Anyway (#Mood)

A Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers collaboration.

Myra here.

These two books have been on my radar for quite awhile now. I know that they are insanely popular among many teachers and parents, but I had my own personal reservations about them after reading Betsy Bird’s very detailed review on Goodreads here. However, given our current reading theme, I thought it’s finally time to find these books and determine for myself whether I liked them or not.

The Day The Crayons Quit

Written by Drew Daywalt Illustrated by Oliver Jeffers
Published by Philomel Books (2013)
ISBN: 0399255370 (ISBN13: 9780399255373). Literary Awards: Vermont’s Picture Book Awards: Red Clover (2015), Texas Bluebonnet Award (2015), Zilveren Griffel (2015), South Carolina Book Award for Picture Book (2016), Flicker Tale Children’s Book Award for Picture Books (2015), Keystone to Reading Book Award for Primary (2015), California Young Readers Medal for Primary (2016), Wanda Gág Read Aloud Book Award (2014), Monarch Award (2015), The Magnolia Award for K-2 (2015), CBI Book of the Year for Children’s Choice (2014). Borrowed from the Jurong West Public LibraryBook photos taken by me.

Essentially, this is an epistolary tale of crayons who had quite a number of complaints and concerns that they wished to raise to their owner, a young boy named Duncan. Hence, Duncan found a stack of letters when he opened his box of crayons.

There are overworked crayons (the stumpy blue and the perspiring red, and the big-animal-grey), as well as crayons who are unable to get along (orange and yellow are bickering as to who is the real colour of the sun).

The bone of contention here, really, and which Betsy Bird eloquently raised in her review is Peach complaining about being naked, implicitly under the assumption that peach is flesh-coloured. This reminded me of Mohieddin Ellabbad’s The Illustrator’s Notebook (see my review here) whereby he spoke about learning to mix his own paint to characterize the colour of his skin and his people.

While I enjoyed Daywalt and Jeffers’ story at face value, I also understand the missed potential in their narrative – not so much to moralize or didactically insert a tokenistic understanding of multiculturalism – but just to exercise a nuanced sensitivity as to the variations of colour and what they could possibly signify.

The Day The Crayons Came Home

Written by Drew Daywalt Illustrated by Oliver Jeffers
Published by Philomel Books (2015)
ISBN: 0399172750 (ISBN13: 9780399172755). Literary Award: Goodreads Choice Award for Picture Books (2015). Borrowed from the Jurong West Public LibraryBook photos taken by me.

I found this sequel to be a bit more enjoyable as compared to the previous one. For one, the text is much more sparse. This is mainly because the story consists of a series of postcards sent by crayons who happen to be missing, left to melt out in the sun, or lost in the basement.

Secondly, I like the idea of an ode to the forgotten, the misplaced, the broken crayons who are asking to be rediscovered. However, there are also a few bold ones who visit the Giant Pyramids in New Jersey or the Great Wall of China in Cleveland – or are all packed and ready for the front door to be opened for them to meet what the world has to offer head-on.

I believe that what made the stories work for me is Oliver Jeffers’ art, which is, as per usual, superb in these two books. The final spread found in both books made me gasp aloud. There are so many details, visual codes and clues, and artfully-rendered witticism that added a different layer to the narrative. More than anything, these two books are fun and would definitely make the reader want to start colouring immediately. I know I have that same exact sensation after reading both books.

#LitWorld2018GB Update: US (Both Daywalt and Jeffers are based in the US).

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Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

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