Michael Hall, Red. A Crayon’s Story
Published 2015 by Greenwillow Books, An Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 40p
I find challenging and beautiful as well to analyze the symbolic dimension of clothing, especially when it defies expectations. I was born in a small country where children were taught not to speak unasked and were lectured to respect some conventions that would practically destroy their creativity and individuality. Things have slowly changed after the Revolution in 1989 but the society still needs to work hard to understand the needs of the younger generations and to accept that people construct their identities based on different criteria and not following stereotypes.
It is sometimes difficult to explain a child that we are different and we react distinctively to stimuli but it must be part of their education as identity is strongly related to social membership. We are often mislabeled and we ourselves are occasionally judgemental.
I was extremely happy when I encountered Michael Hall’s Red as it is an amazing story; it has wit, great symbolism and multiple reading levels. Red is a blue crayon but it was somehow wrapped in red paper and expected to behave like red. Despite his effort he cannot respond expectations.
Of course, all the other crayons have something to say:
Sometimes I wonder if he’s really red at all. (Amber)
Frankly, I don’t think he’s very bright.(Fuchsia)
Well, I think he’s lazy.(Grape)
Red’s doubt regarding his self-perception leads to frustration and identity crisis. The self-discovery is a difficult process as it confronts conformity. Children will apprehend Red’s emotions and his need of support while adults will see beyond label and reflect upon the importance of acceptance. Red can also be approached as the story of a transgender, the experience of an individuality born in the wrong body.
During his personal anxiety, Red meats Berry, a crayon that asks him to make a blue ocean for his boat. And that will change his life.
Hall’s subtle irony regarding social paradoxes and false friendship is excellent:
I always said he was blue. (Hazelnut)
His blue strawberries are my favorite. (Brown)
I’m going to make a green lizard with him. A really big one. (Yellow)
Red is inspiring, funny and heartwarming, a reminder that there is a place for everybody in the world, despite appearances and weaknesses.
Complement Red with Christine Baldacchio’s Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress, a tender story on gender identity and with Sarah Bee’s The Yes, a bold story on self-confidence.