Apparently Michael Hall had a great book planned for us. His characters –crayons, of course– had assembled to rehearse it, only to discover their pages defaced by a nasty scribble. In their attempts to clean up the mess, they instead make it worse (they are crayons, after all, not erasers) and the problem grows so bad that their story must be cancelled.
Readers are greeted on page one with an official notice of cancellation, and the title page is marked with a shocking red “CANCELLED” stamp… When you turn the page, catching the loafing crayons by surprise, the pencil (who directed the story) steps forward to fill you in on the events leading up to the cancellation.
It’s all very ridiculous, of course, but Hall keeps things interesting and fun, and the conceptual nature of the story-telling adds a refreshing complexity to the format. Where so many picture book authors seem to live by the motto “Simple books for simple children,” Hall gives your kids considerably more credit, challenging them with visual layers and a delivery that is perhaps less straightforward than they are used to. (Could Hall be children’s literature’s answer to Charlie Kaufman?)
The illustrations are wonderful cut-paper collages and clearly the work of someone with a design background. The colour blocking is compelling and the simplified pictures are a nice counterpoint to the story-within-a-story complexity of the narrative.
Frankencrayon is another (following Red: A Crayon’s Story from a year ago) great work by a unique storytelling voice. It might not be every kid’s favorite book, but for those to whom it speaks, it will speak loudly, and it will make an impact.