The day the crayons were in so many storybooks

L to R: Robert Langen, Christian Granstrom, Johanna Langlois and Raina Riekse collaborated on a book

They’ve gone from storybook readers to storytellers, and the often hilarious results mean more kids get to enjoy more crayons going on more adventures.

Look at those crayons in France, just itching for a fight

Call them colorful passports to a child’s imagination, from the imaginations of their older peers.

About 130 seventh graders in Dawn Mathews’ Northern Hills Middle School  English Language Arts classes worked in groups to write, edit and illustrate original storybooks for students in lower grades. Some added Braille, textured images, and video-audio recordings so more students can enjoy them. The books will be made available to district elementary schools.

Student books were modeled after the bestselling “The Day the Crayons Quit” and “The Day the Crayons Came Home” children’s books.

Titles that middle-schoolers came up with included “The Day the Crayons Went to School,” “The Day the Crayons Got Left at the Airport,” and “The Day the Crayons Made Enemies.”

Stories were varied, creative and funny

Evoking the unusual situations found in the original works, Husky versions included a green crayon trapped in a microwave, only to meet an unsurprising fate. A glittery crayon who advised small hands “don’t use me for everything like everyone else does.” And bluebell the crayon, left at the Eiffel Tower and befriended by a No. 2 pencil.

Co-authors of “The Day the Crayons Went to France” explained that each person chose two colors whose perspectives to write. Robert Langen, for instance, was “fuzzy wuzzy brown, who is sort of a rapper,” he said, and “red wine, who’s like a fancy crayon.”

Knowing the book will be read by dozens or even hundreds of other kids is “scary and exciting at the same time,” said Johanna Langlois.

The ‘Fought Back in France’ group added back cover blurbs

Mathews started the storybook-making assignment last year. For the inaugural attempt, students from elementary buildings were brought to the middle school to be read to in person, but logistics were a challenge, she said.

The project touched on Common Core standards including plot lines and figurative language, and developed students’ soft skills such as collaboration, meeting deadlines and presenting in front of audiences.

Marin Beukema, whose maroon crayon mistook an airport toilet for a whirlpool spa, said he learned that “working together with multiple people is not easy.”

The key, he said, is “communicating in the right way.” And that means? “Have patience with each other,” he said.

L to R:  Evan Ostipow, Tristan Gerville-Reache, Kaleb Kemp and Owen Butler record audio and video of themselves reading their book
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Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema is a Grand Rapids native and a product of Grand Rapids Public Schools, including Brookside and West Leonard elementaries, City Middle/High School and Ottawa Hills. She found her tribe in journalism in 1997 and has never wanted to do anything but write. For 15 years she was a freelance journalist for The Grand Rapids Press, covering local schools and government, religion, business, home & garden and lifestyles. She and her husband, John, think even those without kiddos should be invested in their local schools and made to feel a part of them. Read Morgan's full bio or email Morgan.

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