Elizabeth Rusch's A Day With No Crayons
Illustrated by Mark Teague
Children's book review by Sarah Denslow
Discovering color outdoors
What a wonderful book! The pictures are beautifully colored; the story is entirely satisfying, and A Day with No Crayons always makes me eager to look at things from a different point of view.
Don’t get me wrong: I like crayons. In fact, they’re my preferred medium for kids’ art projects (clean and colorful with great texture). However, as you might guess, Rusch's book is really about more than just crayons. It’s about, well, a lot of things. Let’s start at the beginning.
Liza loves crayons (even more than I love this book, in fact). She draws dozens of pictures, appreciating the subtleties of each color she has in her box, until one day…she runs out of paper.
What to do? Well, there’s a huge blank canvas just waiting for her: the wall! Liza soon begins to cover it with her artwork.
In my opinion, this is a great way to lead into Liza drawing on the wall. It’s very easy as adults to forget that children have a completely different perspective on the world than we do. While we see marking up unapproved surfaces as a problem, in Liza’s mind, drawing on the wall makes a lot of sense.
Still, in her mother’s mind it merits putting the crayons away for the rest of the day. I might have made her clean off the walls instead, but I like that her mother chooses a consequence for drawing on the walls that is clearly related to that behavior, rather than, say, going without dessert. Removing the medium through which a child is displaying inappropriate behavior (in this case crayons) often gets a child to focus his energy in a more positive direction.
This is the case with Liza. It does take some time, though. After the removal of her crayons, the book’s illustrations become gray, which is how Liza feels without all those waxy colors. Soon, though, a squirt of toothpaste in the bathroom sink produces turquoise. Frustrated stomping through mud puddles produces lovely shades of brown.
In no time, Liza is finding color everywhere in her world: green grass stains, dark purple blackberry juice, yellow dandelions! Her artwork takes off on the much bigger canvas nature provides her with.
This is what I really love about A Day with No Crayons. Children spend more and more time indoors these days and interact less and less with nature. For Liza, the colors of nature are a real discovery; she compares all the shades she finds outside with her crayon colors rather than the other way around. It’s not that having crayons was a bad thing, but as we see, she can be even more creative when her coloring is balanced with time with nature. Maybe her mother was looking for an excuse to take away the crayons…
A Day with No Crayons shows how creative and busy children can be when they get outdoors. At the end of the day, when her mother offers them back to her, Liza says she thinks she could go another day without her crayons. After all, she’s found nature’s palate has even more colors!
A Day With No Crayons is a highly enjoyable book that, with any luck, will inspire your child to look at things in new way and maybe even get outside for a bit. In fact, the art Liza creates outside could easily translate into a fun project for a child: at one point, she draws a tree trunk with mud and then sticks real leaves onto it; later she uses a brick to draw on the sidewalk, then makes an ocean from blue pebbles. My advice: read this book to children, then take them outside and see what art ideas they can come up with!
Read more of Sarah's reviews.
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