The Day the Crayons Quit

Drawn (though not written) by the superb Olive Jeffers, this is a creative and unusual story about the right and wrong way to use a box of crayons.  It takes the form of a series of letters, purportedly from Duncan’s crayons, complaining about his habits and asking him to change.

Frankly, the crayons are an irritating bunch.  Red complains about never getting a break.  Blue feels he is overworked and consequently stubby. Grey feels like he spends too much time colouring enormous things like elephants and rhinocerouses and not enough time on small easy things like pebbles and baby penguins. Purple feels Duncan does not colour neatly enough. Yellow and orange argue vociferously about which is the true colour of the sun.  Beige crayon is thoroughly irritated, sick of coming second to brown bemoaning that he only gets to colour turkey dinners and wheat – “and let’s face it, what kid ever got excited about colouring wheat?” Only green has anything really positive to say, congratulating Duncan on his career in ‘colouring things green’ so far.  By far the funniest page is that about the poor peach crayon who’s been stripped of his wrapping and hides, naked, in the crayon box.

In the end, Drew Daywalt’s entertaining wander through the messages of the crayon box culminates in a spectacular picture from Duncan who tries to accommodate all his crayon’s wishes at once.  It’s a good talking point with children, allowing you to discuss what each crayon wanted and whether Duncan has been able to do it or not.  You can spot all the references back to the rest of the book, which is obviously good for comprehension and reflecting on reading.

This is a funny book, with a level of humour that works well into the primary school years.  If I have a criticism, it’s that the format is quite repetitive.  The stories from each crayon do not really build on or from each other, so the middle (and dominant) section of the book is like a list rather than having any narrative drive forward.  There are a lot of crayons, and it does get a little repetitive in form.  However, there is just enough detail and difference between each letter to keep the reader engaged despite this.  It’s certainly proved very popular with the children who’ve read it and the 6 year old has taken it off to read repeatedly to herself.

Drew Daywalt won the Good Reads Choice Award for Best Picture Book with this, and it is certainly an original and enjoyable piece of writing for 3-7 year olds.

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