short stack

‘Red: A Crayon’s Story’ by Michael Hall

Red: A Crayon’s Story

by Michael Hall, Greenwillow,
$17.99, ages 4-8

It’s early in the year for sweeping declarations, but I can’t help myself: “Red: A Crayon’s Story” by Michael Hall will be one of 2015’s sensations in kid lit. This isn’t Hall’s first gem. He has done lovely work with picture books’ most basic vocabulary before: shape in “My Heart Is Like a Zoo” and “Perfect Square” and color in “It’s an Orange Aardvark.” He plays with color again in “Red,” but this time Hall has written a deeper story. Narrated by a pencil, “Red” is the story of a mislabeled crayon, a little guy whose waxy blue self is covered in a red paper wrapper and no one — not his well-meaning parents, his diligent teachers, his generous grandparents (charming silver and gray nubs), nor his baffled peers — can see past his label. He tries to draw strawberries, a stoplight, and cherries, among other rosy objects, with disappointing results. It takes a new friend with a fresh perspective to encourage Red’s natural gifts. The visual details — including the mismatched endpapers — are witty and plentiful. The metaphor is perfectly elegant. With each blue heart the crayon draws, children can feel the tension of being misunderstood. But when he shows his true color it is a thrill to watch him soar.