Red: A Crayon’s Story is a children’s book written and illustrated by Michael Hall. Michael Hall is a New York Times bestselling picture book author and illustrator based in Minneapolis. At around eight years old, Hall was diagnosed with dyslexia. During this tough stage of his life, his father used terms such as “lazy” to describe his diverse ability. Although reading was a challenge, Hall continued to push himself for years and discovered an interest in making images and writing. At this point, he knew he wanted to become a writer, but when he got into college, he experienced a great interest in nature and dyslexia which led him to focus on biochemistry over English. After working in the biochemistry field for several years, Hall became bored with the routine and decided to go back to school to do something more creative and interesting, which for him was graphic design. After studying design for a year, he started a business, which he ran for twenty-five years. Through this experience, Hall began creating picture books in which he incorporates his creative ideas and personal experiences.
Red: A Crayon’s Story reflects how Hall felt when he was first diagnosed with dyslexia. Red, a blue crayon with a red label is the main character of the story who suffers an identity crisis. All the other crayons expect Red to conform to their expectations by drawing red objects like firetrucks, strawberries, and even a self-portrait, but Red’s drawings always turn out blue. All the crayons attempt to “fix” Red with no success. Throughout the story, Red experiences judgement and is called “lazy” or “not that bright” by the other crayons; similar to what Hall experienced from his father. One day, Purple asks Red to draw her an ocean for her boat, in which he was successful. After this, he realizes that his label was wrong the whole time; he was never red, he was always blue. From this moment on, Red is proud to be blue and the rest of the crayons praise him for his amazing and brilliant drawing abilities.
Throughout the story, Hall does a fantastic job in taking a complex concept and putting it in a way that is suitable for children. Although this story was based off his personal experience with dyslexia, it is also relative in any stereotypes or labels found in our society, such as gender, sexuality, social status, race, and physical ability. Expecting someone to be good at something or to enjoy something because of these labels can harshly impact the individual’s self-esteem and confidence if they cannot fulfill these expectations; like how Red felt when he could not meet the expectation of drawing red objects. With that, I would use this story in a classroom to teach children the importance of acceptance, being true to yourself, and embracing our strengths and weaknesses. This story also teaches the effects of labels, stereotypes, and judgement, whether it be regarding gender, race, or physical abilities. An example I could use to help children better understand this concept is by using real-life scenarios. For example, just because someone is a girl does not necessarily mean they like princesses, the colour pink, and playing dress-up and just because someone is a boy does not mean they need to be good at sports or like the colour blue.
I believe that this story would work best in a kindergarten to second grade classroom, but because the story can be perceived in many ways and have a deeper meaning, it can also be used to help older children or even high school students who are having trouble with their identities. Throughout the story or at the end of the book, reflection and discussion questions can be asked to ensure that the children are engaged and understand the concept of the story. An activity that I would include to do with the children would be to decorate their own crayon and encourage them to use their favourite colours, symbols, and include images that describe them, their background, their talents, and personality. To display their work, I would create a giant crayon box on a wall and place their completed crayons inside. I would then explain to them that even though we are all part of one box, we have so many differences that we should embrace and be proud of.
Hall, M. (2015). Red: A Crayon’s Story. New York, NY: Greenwillow Books, an imprint of HarperCollins.
Michael Hall, New York Times Bestselling Picture Book Author and Illustrator – MackinVIAConnext. (2014, July 10). Retrieved November 21, 2017, from http://www.mackinviacommunity.com/2014/07/09/michael-hall/