The colorful stars of The Day the Crayons Quit may well get a vote of confidence from their fans at the end of this month. The balloting has begun to determine whether or not the Crayons should actually quit their important jobs, and the suspense builds as National Quitting Day, on September 30, draws closer. That’s when author Drew Daywalt and illustrator Oliver Jeffers will reveal the results of Penguin Young Readers Group’s campaign to rally kids to celebrate the Crayons – and support their protest against the constraints of a system that demands they color the sky blue and the grass green, and stay within the lines.
There are legions of prospective pro-Crayon crusaders out there. The picture book is published in 15 languages and has sold more than 1.5 million copies worldwide since its June 2013 release by Philomel. Since then, it has spent 62 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, where it currently holds top slot.
To help booksellers, educators, and librarians join in the month-long build-up to National Quitting Day, Penguin has created extensive signage and activity kits, including I Support the Crayons! stickers, rolls of mural drawing paper, and a poster with reproducible activities. The Crayons will stage protests at book festivals and public events throughout September, and Penguin has launched a print, online, and blogger advertising campaign to support the cause. Social media components of the initiative include a Pinterest sweepstakes and a countdown to National Quitting Day on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Jed Bennett, Penguin’s director of preschool and young readers marketing, noted that the inspiration for National Quitting Day was “to create a moment around this very special book celebrating creativity. We wanted to leverage the excitement for The Day the Crayons Quit following its first anniversary, and to continue that enthusiasm into the future by making Quitting Day an annual event.”
Barnes & Noble is responding to the Crayons’ grievances with a Don’t Let the Crayons Quit! campaign at all of its 661 locations. Stores are encouraging kids and adults to write letters and draw pictures to the beleaguered Crayons – on custom stationery featuring Jeffers’s art – and place them in a message box. During September, the chain is hosting four nationwide story times designed to support the Crayons. Daywalt and Jeffers will visit B&N stores on September 30, in Los Angeles and New York, respectively, to reveal the Crayons’ decision.
“We want to create a unique experience with this book in our stores and get the community involved in something that is really for readers of all ages,” said Mary Amicucci, v-p of adult trade and children's books at Barnes & Noble. “We believe that the underlying lessons that children participating in the events will discover are the importance of perseverance and the ability to influence change, while parents will be reminded of what can be created when we think outside the box.”
According to Cristin Stickles, children’s book buyer at Manhattan indie McNally Jackson, the promotional hoopla is drumming up new renewed interest in The Day the Crayons Quit at her store, which she observed “is reaping the benefits” of the campaign. After Jeffers first designed and installed a window display when the book pubbed last year (and the store hosted the launch event), she explained, “We immediately had lots of requests for the book. The interest in it never went away, but this new campaign has definitely piqued it. In the past week we have had many customers asking for it specifically.”
Obviously Crayon sympathizers, Daywalt and Jeffers are confident that readers will rally ’round their fraught characters. “I think kids will absolutely show their support,” said the author. “Kids and crayons go together like peanut butter and jelly, although you can’t eat kids or crayons. Both are horrible in sandwiches. The crayons appreciate support from anywhere they can get it. Union reps from the markers, the colored pencils, and even the Erasers Guild of America have lent their support. But the crayons are most hopeful in getting the support of the children who wield them.”
Jeffers was also optimistic about kids’ enthusiasm for jumping on the Crayon bandwagon. “Who doesn’t love crayons and who doesn’t love a good moan every once in a while?” he asked. “I hope everyone has fun supporting them.”
But the pressing question remains: will the Crayons quit? It’s clearly not a black and white matter. “You never can tell how things will go with labor disputes,” said Daywalt. “Back in 2004, you’ll remember, the safety scissors were able to stave off a strike, but that same year, the glue sticks walked. It’s all up to the kids this time.”
Jeffers mused that “the Crayons’ strike is bound to be successful – crayons are just so good at making picket signs. As an artist, I hope they don’t quit. I have a lot of things I need to color in.”