September was a stressful month for the stars of Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers’s bestselling picture book The Day the Crayons Quit – and their fans. On September 3, the disgruntled Crayons announced that they were going on strike as of September 30, which was subsequently dubbed National Quitting Day. This dire threat galvanized Penguin Young Readers Group to organize a month-long campaign encouraging readers to write letters (preferably in crayon) urging the colorful cast to reconsider quitting. Thanks to the in-store and online efforts of the Crayons’ advocates at hundreds of independent bookstores and Barnes & Noble outlets (where more than 100,000 letters and drawings from fans were submitted), the walkout was averted. On the heels of that good news comes more: PYRG today announced that these feisty characters will return in August 2015, when Philomel releases The Day the Crayons Came Home.
But it appears that the Crayons’ future may not be entirely rosy. The sequel will uncover the truth that not every crayon is so lucky as to be as overworked as the likes of Blue, Red, and their friends in the first book. Alas, some of the Crayons have met more troubling fates, such as being broken in half and abandoned under sofa cushions or left behind during the family vacation. Or worse.
Though fans can only hope that all will end up in the pink, author Daywalt hints that there may be more disgruntlement ahead. “Remember that crayon you accidentally melted in the dryer?” he asked. “Or the one your dog ate? Or the one you lost in the couch for two years? Well the crayons remember too, and they’re not happy about it.”
Michael Green, president and publisher of Philomel Books for Young Readers, negotiated the deal for world rights for The Day the Crayons Came Home with Steven Malk of Writers House representing Daywalt, and Paul Moreton of Bell, Lomax, Moreton Agency representing Jeffers.
Despite the Crayons’ grumping, Jeffers (whose Once Upon an Alphabet is due from Philomel this month) is quite pleased to revive them. “Even more fun than drawing with crayons is drawing crayons themselves... with crayons,” said the illustrator. “Apparently one book did not quench my appetite for this activity. This time I get to use even more crayons from the crayon box. Some weird ones too!”
Green recalled that, though everyone in-house believed early on that “we had something very special with The Day the Crayons Quit, not one of us knew the phenomenon we had on our hands. Here was a manuscript from an unknown writer that had been rejected over and over. Suddenly that manuscript is in Philomel’s hands and I’m talking it up over lunch with Oliver Jeffers, as he’s drawing with crayons on a paper tablecloth! Not even Hollywood could have scripted it better.”
Hollywood, as it turns out, has its chance to get into the act. Universal Pictures recently announced its preemptive acquisition of the film rights to The Day the Crayons Quit, with Madhouse Entertainment to produce and Matt Lopez set to script.
“I think the beauty of the book is that it speaks to all of us,” said Green. “Who, as kids or parents, hasn’t spent countless hours lying on the floor surrounded by crayons? For kids, those colors on the labels are names, and names imply personalities. Drew tapped into this unspoken truth, and let the colors’ personalities burst forth in a most appealing way. And no one illustrating books today gets more out of a line or a couple of dots than Oliver. His art elevates every word, every joke, and is so childlike that kids feel like he’s one of them. The end result was magic.”
Still, a sequel to The Day the Crayons Quit, which has been translated into 15 languages and sold more than 1.1 million copies worldwide, wasn’t initially planned. “We were all a little wary of producing a sequel, until Drew, Oliver and I sat in a room together and brainstormed,” Green said. “It turned out there was so much more rich material to mine. None of us wanted to simply continue the joke from the first book – we wanted to recreate it in a way that makes the story brand-new. That’s exactly what they accomplished.”