Thursday, April 30, 2015

Red, A Crayon's Story by Michael Hall

He's supposed to be a red crayon, after all, that's what his label says.  But every time he draws something that should be red, it comes out blue.  His teacher thinks he just needs more practice, but no matter how hard he tries to imitate her example, his strawberries still come out blue.

His mother thinks Red just needs to mix with other crayons more.  But when Red and Yellow decide to make something together, it comes out green, not orange the way it should have.
It just seems that no matter how hard Red tries to live up to his red label, he just can't do it.  Everything still comes out blue.

Naturally, all the other crayons have something to say, and some of what they say isn't very nice, you know, platitudes like "Frankly, I don't think he's very bright" from Fuchsia or "Well, I think he's lazy" from Grape.  Not very helpful to Red's plight.  Even the art supplies try to help, but no matter what they do for him, Red still draws blue.

Then, one day, Red met Berry, who asked if he could draw him a blue ocean for his ship to sail in.  Suddenly, red knew exactly who he was - he was Blue, he was happy and he just couldn't draw enough blue things.

Like many, when I first read this story, I thought it was ideal for kids facing gender identity issues.  Then I began to think that it could also be for kids dealing with questions about their sexual identity.  But then, I thought about how I was an undiagnosed dyslexic in school and I felt a lot of what Red felt, and heard all the platitudes, so OK, even learning challenged kids could benefit from this book.  The more I thought, the more I began to see that almost any young person could benefit.

In the end, I realized that in Red, A Crayon's Story, Michael Hall has created a perfect metaphor about difference and the need to look beyond the label, whatever that label may be.  By simply placing his story in a box of crayons, and having it narrated by a pencil, who is able to keep some objective distance to the crayons, Red becomes a book that allows the reader to read it however s/he needs to.  I think kids will understand Red's plight pretty quickly, and hopefully parents and teachers will start looking at their Reds in a whole new way.

A very helpful Teaching Guide is available from the publisher, Greenwillow Books, HERE

This book is recommended for readers age 4+
This book was borrowed from the NYPL

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