Red: A Crayon's Story
February 3, 2015
“Red has a bright red label, but he is, in fact, blue. His teacher tries to help him be red (let’s draw strawberries!), his mother tries to help him be red by sending him out on a playdate with a yellow classmate (go draw a nice orange!), and the scissors try to help him be red by snipping his label so that he has room to breathe. But Red is miserable. He just can’t be red, no matter how hard he tries! Finally, a brand-new friend offers a brand-new perspective, and Red discovers what readers have known all along. He’s blue! This funny, heartwarming, colorful picture book about finding the courage to be true to your inner self can be read on multiple levels, and it offers something for everyone!”
Welcome to another installment of Picture Books in Review where I apply way too much thought to a book written for individuals who can count their age on one sticky, little hand. And what better book to over-analyze than Michael Hall’s latest work Red: A Crayon’s Story.
This is the story of a crayon whose wrapper says he is red, but he is very obviously blue. His parents, teachers, and classmates, along with other various school supplies attempt to show him how to be red, but things keep turning up blue.
Everyone, especially Red’s grandparents, who I assume would vote right in any upcoming elections, seems concerned for the young crayon. It is when Red is on the verge of an identity crisis that the open-minded Berry crayon comes along to ask Red to draw an ocean under her berry-colored boat. Red is apprehensive at first, because not since the days of Moses has there been a red ocean, but with some coaxing, he obliges and finally sees the truth. He is a blue crayon. What a day.
Everyone is thrilled upon this new discovery, and Red, the blue crayon, is finally able to live up to his full potential.
This story has been called “the ultimate be-yourself story” by many other readers and reviewers, and while I agree, I think this book conveys the transgender story better than any ABC Family Original Series has been able to. Seriously, a blue crayon with a red wrapper? Where was my mind supposed to go?
And before you say that such a stance is too much to apply to this seemingly simple book, let me point out that, in the illustrations, one can tell the age of a crayon by how short it is.
In the end, all books are open to interpretation, and anyone can read anything into a story. Someone could say this piece is actually about the financial status of small-business owners in the southeast, and no one (ok, maybe someone) could argue. However, I feel that this book does a great job of taking a very large issue in our culture and bringing it down to a level even a kindergartener can understand with perfect clarity. I would recommend this book to you, your child, or maybe your ultra-conservative-set-in-her-ways grandma.