Red: A Crayon’s Story (Michael Hall; Greenwillow Books, 2015)

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red-a-crayons-storyThis picture book tells a story of identity, be it gender identity or other, from a near perfect perspective. Red crayon is a red crayon because his paper jacket is the colour red and it says ‘Red’. Right? Not quite. It is very clear that the crayon peeking out from under its wrapper is as blue as blue can be. It turns out that Red is horrible at being red. Despite trying so hard, fire engines and strawberries just don’t turn out as they are expected to. All of the other crayons’ waxy bodies are the same colours as their wrappers. Red is obviously very different. Red’s mother, teacher, the other crayons and the art supplies have some advice. Maybe Red should practice more, mix with other colours, press harder, or needs tape to fix a break that isn’t even visible. Amber crayon is the only one that wonders if Red is really red at all. When Red meets Berry, who asks if Red can draw an ocean for its boat, Red replies “I can’t. I’m red.” With Berry’s encouragement, Red discovers that making blue waves is easy! So is drawing bluebells, blue jeans, blue birds, and blue whales! With the encouragement of the other crayons, who are beginning to understand Red, Red reaches for the sky, and stays there.

My sister is the staff member of her high school’s LGBTQ+ club. They read this book as a group a few weeks ago and discussion ensued as to the many messages this short picture book holds. I was secretly happy that they also discovered that picture books can be enjoyed by adults and teenagers, too! My 4 and 8 year-olds also like reading Red: A Crayon’s Story. It’s characters are crayons after all, and fantastically coloured crayons at that. I find this picture book to be a lighthearted read for a topic that can have such weight to it, and seize the opportunity to ask my girls questions about individuality and inclusiveness as we read this book together.

I am pleased to see on Michael Hall’s website (http://www.michaelhallstudio.com/pages/about/index.html) that Red: A Crayon’s Story was a multiple award winner and nominee. I’m a bit surprised it wasn’t nominated or a winner of some even bigger awards.

Carnivores

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Carnivores (Aaron Reynolds, author; Dan Santat, illustrator. Chronicle Books, 2013)

CarnivoresAaron Reynolds produces humorous picture books (we also recently discovered his Nerdy Birdy) and this one tops his list, in my opinion. A lion, a great white shark, and a timber wolf want to stop being ostracised by the other animals, but they’ve made a name for themselves as, well,…carnivores. None of their attempts to change their eating habits are successful, so they visit the wise owl and finally get some usable advice. Meat lovers and those who enjoy a unique and laugh out loud read will enjoy this picture book. The big, bold illustrations keep my 3 year-old engaged, and the ‘embrace who you are’ theme and self-help spoofs are enjoyed by the older audience. Happy Hunting.

Spoon

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SpoonSpoon (Amy Krouse Rosenthal, author. Scott Magoon, illustrator. Disney/Hyperion Books, 2009)

Little Spoon is a surprising character to teach about being happy in your own shoes, or in this case, your own section of the cutlery drawer. I hadn’t given much thought to the many uses and adventures of a spoon until reading this book, and neither had Spoon, so his mom and friends pointed them out to him. Even Spoon had to admit that there is nothing better than being a spoon when it comes to cuddle time. If you like this picture book, check out Chopsticks by the same author and illustrator combination (Disney/Hyperion Books, 2012). Both Spoon and Chopsticks include a few clever puns that my 7-year old enjoyed (once explained!). Bon appetite.