By Sara Halliday
Museum of Childhood with Philly and Petra
I read a kids book today. I know, an English degree and a penchant for high prose and the best thing I can come up with for a 500 word SCAB is that I read a book designed for children. The pictures were bigger than the text, the words were simple and mostly monosyllabic. The word monosyllabic didn’t feature in the story.
It was just past noon, I was in the Museum of Childhood with Philly and Petra, we had listened to half of a storytelling session about a leopard’s drum and wandered halfheartedly around toys constrained to glass boxes. The most fun we had had to this point was in a small interactive zone where you could change the colour of some LEDs. We were getting hungry. As museums for children go, it wasn’t the most hands-on. I was stressed about D&AD, tired from a distinct lack of caffeine, and underwhelmed by the exhibits. I did learn that ‘seating for children has existed for centuries’ though, so there’s that.
After looking at a myriad of dolls locked up in their transparent cells, we did what any group of hungry, tired, and underwhelmed students would do. We went to the gift shop. I love a good gift shop. My mum used to have a lot of exhibitions in National Trust properties, and days spent stewarding meant hours of being 6 years old in a dusty, Welsh, National Trust house. I’d stroll casually over to the gift shop, without a care in the world (nor money in my pocket). Hours would pass browsing everything the shops sold, from the branded rubbers to the pocket bug collecting set. I had a thing for thimbles, a curious hobby for a 6 year old who didn’t sew. I liked the china ones with little pictures of the local flora and fauna. I was a bit odd.
So, today’s gift shop being no different, I set out to browse as 6 year old Sara. There were laundry bags shaped like Chinese fish, a ruler that extended to show the whole history of the world, many felted animals, and one book in particular which captured my attention. This book was called ‘The Day the Crayons Quit’. I called it out initially because I felt it was the kind of cynically-titled tome dear Philly would write. We gathered around, and opened it.
Reader, we read each and every page.
We stood reading in silence, broken only with small exhalations of breath that constitute a laugh in a quiet museum gift shop. The story was a set of letters written by a disgruntled box of crayons, who each had misgivings with their owner, a young boy called Duncan. The red crayon felt overworked, sick of colouring firetrucks and hearts on Valentine’s Day. The black crayon was upset that it was only ever used to outline, and begged for Duncan to consider colouring a black beachball for once.
The tone was perfect, as cynical as the title suggests yet endearingly so. I was immediately thrust into playful child (not literally, Jesus). It was dumb clever, as Marc calls it, and I would wholeheartedly recommend it next time you’re looking for a pick-me-up. Maybe I’ll buy a copy for the studio.