Almost a year ago, my ‘BFF’, also a Jo-Ann….with no ‘e’ at the end, a ‘Child Life Specialist’ in the US, sent me this book recommendation. Child life specialists are health care professionals who help children and families navigate the process of illness, injury, disability, trauma, or hospitalisation and she uses all kinds of tools and magic...books included, in her work.
I only recently found a copy at an affordable price and what a delightful, joyful read it is!!!
Red, is a crayon whose label clearly reads “RED”.
Naturally he is given all the important red jobs like colouring fire-engines and strawberries. No matter what red colours, all his art turned out blue.
His mother thought he needed to mix with the other colours, so he does, with yellow to create an orange…only ending up creating a greenish one.
The other crayons all had plenty of ‘helpful’ suggestions and opinions.
“I think he’s lazy.”
“I don’t think he’s very bright.”
“He’s got to press harder.”
“Really apply himself.”
The art supplies all wanted to help, giving him a makeover with a little snip, a few turns to sharpen and tape even tried to mend his ‘broken insides’.
Yet "even with all our help and all his hard work, he just couldn't get the hang of it."
Then one day, his friend Berry asks if he wanted to make an ocean.
“I can’t. I’m Red.”, he replies.
Berry coaxes…”Will you try?”
And so he does, and when he succeeds, he feels free!
He feels like himself, and his work becomes a joy.
Seeing this free, exuberant expression, the other crayons change their tune, claiming to have always known his true color.
“My son is brilliant!”
“I always said he was blue.”
“It was obvious.”
“He’s really reaching for the sky”....and he did, quite literally, a rather huge project!!
The illustrations are starkly simple, yet vividly intense. Micheal Hall manages to express feelings and the intensity of emotions with just the fonts he uses, the lines and use of space.
At first read, I felt this book seemed to be touching on gender, as Jo-Ann’s suggestion came in response to a post on LGBTIQA+ books I’d shared.
But as I read it again, I look at it as one that talks about finding your true self, finding strength in your differences and being YOU.
Red - A Crayon's Story by Micheal Hall, published by Green Willow Books