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Red: A Crayon's Story Hardcover – February 3, 2015
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From School Library Journal
PreS-K—Step inside the life of a crayon in this funny and poignant picture book. The star of the show is Red, a blue crayon who mistakenly has a red label. His teacher tries to convince him to draw strawberries, but they show up blue. He tries on a red scarf, but it just does not match. His mother suggests he mixes with other colors, but the results are not what he expects. No matter how hard Red tries, his efforts just keep coming out blue. His other crayon friends try to help him reinvent himself, but no matter what they do, Red is still a blue crayon. After much self-doubt and denial, Red makes a new friend, a Berry-colored crayon, who asks him to complete his drawing by adding a blue ocean for his boat. Red gives it a go, and suddenly, he finds his true self and discovers what his other art-supply friends knew all along. The rest of his crayon friends are impressed with his new style, and Red comes to embrace his true identity. Hall's latest picture book is all about staying true to oneself, no matter what others say. The illustrations emulate children's artwork, giving readers a great opportunity to identify colors and new vocabulary. Large, clear text make this perfect for a read-aloud, as well as independent reading. VERDICT Reminiscent of Drew Daywalt's The Day the Crayons Quit (Philomel, 2013), this witty and heartwarming book is sure to become a favorite for children and adults alike.—Natalie Braham, Denver Public Library
“[A] fresh approach to colors and feelings. . . . Readers will share all the emotional elements of the tale—humor, despair, sadness, frustration, and finally, excitement.” (Booklist (starred review))
“When a red-labeled crayon discovers he’s actually blue, he finds joy, ebullience and acceptance. . . . Hall’s compositions . . . convey a strong sense of emotion. Red captures [his feelings] . . . in an exuberant, far-reaching sky. Smartly designed and appealing, Red’s story offers much for discussion and affirmation.” (Kirkus Reviews)
“Crayon Red may be labeled red, but he colors blue. . . . Once he lets go of his label and proclaims, “I’m blue!” everything turns around . . . Smart design, bold colors, and sharp details keep the story both effective and amusing.” (Horn Book Magazine)
“Red is a crayon, and children will see his problem right away: his label reads ‘red,’ but he’s blue. . . . The overly cheerful encouragement Red endures will sound familiar to any child who’s struggled to perform. . . . Unexpectedly affecting.” (Publishers Weekly)
“Funny and poignant . . . Hall’s latest picture book is all about staying true to oneself, no matter what others say. . . . Witty and heartwarming [and] sure to become a favorite for children and adults alike.” (School Library Journal)
“Funny and clever, with a wonderful message about embracing who we are.” (Huffington Post)
“This story of mistaken identity has a simple yet profound premise that makes it feel fresh.” (USA Today)
“[A] smart, insightful coming-of-age story for [the] youngest readers.” (Shelf Awareness)
Top customer reviews
Red can be read in many different ways. In it's simplistic form, it's merely about a crayon simply wanting to be itself without succumbing to the pressures of its family and peers. Children could easily view this as their intrinsic need to try and fail, all the while gain autonomy over their lives (fitting with Erikson's Psychosocial Stages).
On a more complex level, you can definitely see this book relating to the LGBQT community as well as dealing with the mental health issues related to being denied your true self (e.g. depression, feelings of "otherness", etc.). In fact, I believe the one-star reviewer saw this book only as a platform for the transgender community and not the many other possible moralities to this story (which prompted me to write this review).
From my brief experiments with the book and a survey of about 15 teachers and parents, adults seem to immediately see the crayon as a transgender person. They tend to overlook the crayon being blue on the inside and only see the red label at first (10ish/15 did not see a blue crayon - I say 10ish because one person had already read the book prior to my survey). Only when the crayon begins to struggle creating red pictures do they realize the crayon is, in fact, blue.
I have yet to "experiment" reading this with kids, but this week I plan on reading this to several classes of varying ages to get a sample of opinions. My hypothesis: most elementary students (K-5ish) will see the book as a powerful "coming of age" story about self-acceptance unless they have a prior relationship to the LGBQT community. I am very interested to read this book to classes where some of the students have same-gendered parents. I also think starting in grades 4/5, students might begin thinking there is more to the story and relate it to bigger ideas of morality, gender, and identity.