Two new books colorfully hit the mark with children

Two new books colorfully hit the mark with children

Here are two new books which are getting lots of attention by critics and readers:

— "The Day the Crayons Quit" (2013, Philomel, written by Drew Daywalt, illustrated by Oliver Jeffers, ages 4-8) begins when Duncan reaches for his crayons and, in their place, finds a stack of letters with his name on them. He begins to read. "Hey Duncan," the first letter says. "It's me, RED Crayon. WE NEED to talk. You make me work harder than any of your other crayons."

In the note crayoned in red letters, Red Crayon complains about the many fire engines and apples he has to color, and that he even has to work on holidays, drawing Santas and valentines. "I NEED A REST!" he says, and signs the letter, "Your overworked friend, RED Crayon."

This letter is followed by one from Purple Crayon, who is upset about how often his "gorgeous color" goes out of the lines. Gray Crayon tells Duncan, "You're KILLING ME!" by coloring so many elephants, rhinos, whales and other huge animals. He points out that baby penguins and tiny rocks and pebbles are also gray.

Black crayon is tired of just being used for outlines. Orange and Yellow are arguing about who is the true color of the sun. Blue points out how short and stubby he is after all of those oceans and skies. Pink complains about being underused by Duncan, and Peach feels naked without his wrap and refuses to come out of the box.

Duncan, of course, is concerned. He wants his crayons to be happy. Then he has an idea. He draws a picture — with a pink monster, a black beach ball, a green ocean, small blue bus, an orange whale and more. His teacher gives him an A for coloring and an A+ for creativity.

This book gets an A+ for creativity. It's engaging and unique, with the text and crayoned illustrations bursting with personality.

— Now, transition from bright colored crayons to a simple, painted exclamation mark on lined composition paper. A concerned look is drawn on its circled face. "He stood out from the very beginning," the text says in "Exclamation Mark" (2013, Scholastic Press, written by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld, ages 3-7).

Showing the exclamation mark standing tall next to rows of circle-faced periods, we see his many attempts to fit in. "It seemed like the only time he didn't stand out was when he was asleep," we read, as the illustration shows him lying flat in the row of periods. Exclamation mark, simply referred to as "He," is "confused, flummoxed, and deflated," until one day he runs into someone new.

"Who are you?" questions this new character (a question mark, of course). This is followed by so many questions that, in exasperation, the exclamation mark hollers, "STOP!"

"He didn't know he had it in him," the text tells us. With question mark's encouragement, he explores saying other things: "Howdy!" "Home run!" Thrilled to find himself, he holds his head high, and goes off to "make his mark." The spare text and simple black lines tell a story that is terrifically clever and fun.

Adults and children will all find plenty to enjoy in these two multileveled books. And perhaps in both, you will find a small hint of school coming, just around the corner.

Alice B. McGinty (, the award-winning author of more than 40 books for children, directs a summer writing camp, Words on Fire, for teens, and tutors school-aged children in writing.

Topics (1):Books

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