The Day the Crayons Quit


The day my son had his first ear infection, I found a new book on our doorstep.

After the screaming, the run down the road to the walk-in clinic a block away, the half hour in the waiting room with a wailing preschooler that felt like a year, the dash home again, the medicine and everything, I opened my apartment door to find a big envelope there from Penguin. It could not have arrived on a better day.

The Day the Crayons Quit is a beautiful book illustrated by Oliver Jeffers (Lost and Found, Stuck, The Incredible Book Eating Boy, and This Moose Belongs to Me) and written by Drew Daywalt. If you’ve never heard of Daywalt, as I hadn’t, it’s probably because you’re thinking of children’s books. He’s an accomplished writer for TV and film, and currently ruling YouTube in the creepy horror genre with his short films according to Salon.

This book, however, is funny not scary.


Crayons have opinions, you see, about how they are used. Beige is feeling slighted by Brown (all those puppies and horses Brown gets to do), and Red and Orange aren’t even speaking to each other over who is the appropriate hue for the sun. Blue is overworked, and Pink is irritated at being left out. The crayons have written their grievances to their owner, Duncan, in a series of letters they left in his desk. I think my favourite is the crayon whose wrapper has been peeled off, and is now naked! My son thought this was absolutely hilarious, of course.

Duncan does his best to appease the crayons, and draws the most colourful picture he can.

It’s a lovely book, and a patient three year old would enjoy it. My four year old liked it. Each letter is written out on a different kind of paper, together with a drawing in the requisite colour.

My only issue is the end – Duncan is praised by his teacher by being given an ‘A’ in colouring and an A+ for creativity. I get the intent, but kids doing colouring in school are not being graded like that so it won’t mean anything to them. Aside from whether the child understands, the concept of being graded on colouring and creativity didn’t sit well with me. They spend so much of their school lives trying to measure up, do we really have to drag it into preschool as well? And for such subjective things? Maybe this is my French Canadian Catholic preschool and kindergarten experience rearing its ugly head (getting told off for colouring outside the lines, only colouring in pre-drawn sheets, etc) but it just struck me as an odd way of ending such a lighthearted book. I get it was well-meant, but we just changed it to ‘and his teacher was so impressed with his colouring and creativity’ and left it at that.

It’s a beautiful book, and fun to read. A little tweak to the ending and it will be a regular at storytime.

[amazon_link id=”0399255370″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]The Day the Crayons Quit / Drew Daywalt, Oliver Jeffers[/amazon_link]



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1 thought on “The Day the Crayons Quit”

  1. I bought the same book for L for Christmas! Saw it in Book Warehouse & couldn’t resist. I hadn’t even noticed that it was illustrated by Oliver Jeffers. We have three or four of his books too–they are definitely favourites.

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