First published 2013 in USA by Philomel Books (Penguin Young Readers Group Imprint)
First published in Great Britain in paper back by Harper Collins Books in 2013.
Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers
I wish I’d been more attracted to the front cover when this book was first released because I missed valuable time possessing this work of sheer originality and fun.
Once you open the pages and begin reading, it becomes clear why this book shot to the number one position in the New York Times Bestseller list and was voted overall winner in the UK’s 2015 Red House Children’s Book Award.
Put simply, it’s a story about creativity and ‘thinking outside the box’ but it’s done with verve and giggles.
And what better way to slip a subtle message into a children’s book than through laughter?
What is refreshing about this picture book (1,013 words) is that it’s a book to be enjoyed by children and parents.
The humour is a little sophisticated in places for very young readers and the text on the longer side of standard picture book length.
It’s for these reasons it is probably best suited to 5-7 year-olds or late 4-year-olds to early eights.
The front cover shows placard-waving, cross-looking crayons and it soon becomes evident that a revolution is taking place in a little boy’s box of crayons at school.
The crayons have sent Duncan, their colourer-in-er and draw-er, a stack of letters stating their grievances and why they are going on strike.
They would like to be used differently in many cases, or simply USED in others.
Purple crayon, a neatness fanatic, is cross Duncan can’t stay inside the lines when he colours. Depressed beige is tired of only being used to colour turkey dinners and wheat, when the top jobs like bears and ponies go to his rival brown.
Over-used blue has been worn down to such an extent by colouring vast swathes of sky and sea that he has become a stubby nub no longer capable of seeing over the railing in the crayon box.
Pink is aggrieved Duncan never uses this colour, perceiving it to be a ‘girls’ colour’, while yellow and red crayons are squabbling as to which of them is the official colour of the sun.
In yellow’s letter to Duncan, the crayon says:
Last Tuesday you used me to colour in the sun in your “HAPPY FARM” colouring book. In case you’ve forgotten, it’s on page 7. You CAN’T MISS me. I’m shining down brilliantly on a field of YELLOW corn!
What raises a giggle is a seemingly ‘real’ colouring book, open at the Happy Farm page where a child has coloured in a yellow sun, yellow corn and yellow hay.
Orange crayon counters yellow’s argument by providing evidence from the same colouring book that the sun, according to Duncan, is not yellow but orange.
The funniest part of the book for my son came in Duncan’s letter from Peach crayon who is seen hiding naked in the crayon box because the paper wrapping, that should be covering the crayon, has been torn off.
“I don’t even have any underwear! How would YOU like to go to school naked. I need some clothes. HELP! Your naked friend, PEACH crayon.”
My son roared with laughter at this page which resonates with adults, too, who recognise there is usually one crayon in every box which has lost its wrapping.
It’s the ending where the reader discovers how Duncan makes peace with his disgruntled crayons.
The final, double page spread shows a fantastic multi-coloured picture where the sky is yellow, a whale is orange, a dinosaur is pink and a crocodile is blue.
Duncan has used his colours more creatively than ever. As such, his teacher gives him a:
“good work” sticker for colouring…
(final page turn)
…and a gold star for creativity!”
A beautifully executed book worthy of five gold stars for originality!