Characters on Parade: Crayons Are Out, Cats Are In

Crayons are out Cats are inOnce a year, all the creepy, crawly (or not) storybook characters leap from their pages and parade around my six-year-old twin daughters’ elementary school.

As I discussed in Banning Halloween: A Unnecessary Trick? and The Un-Halloween Parade!, our ultra-politically correct school has replaced a traditional Halloween celebration with a less controversial alternative. As I wrote last year:

[W]hile it’s not a violation of the First Amendment for American public schools to sponsor Halloween activities, I can’t blame our school for wanting to avoid controversy by renaming and repurposing the parade. The controversy relates to Halloween’s Pagan roots, which some claim conflict with their Christian beliefs even though these parades neither endorse a particular religion nor inhibit a person’s ability to practice her own religion. However, to the extent a new name (“character parade”) and a different purpose (promoting literacy) will defuse the controversy, I support the change. In the end, for my bibliophile children, it turned out to be more fun than a typical Halloween parade.

This year, though, my daughters were less enthusiastic about the character parade, despite their assiduous preparation for the big day, October 24th. They scoured their bookshelves for exactly the right book, which turned out to be The Day the Crayons Quit.

Crayons on strikeEach chose a character from Duncan’s box of crayons:

  • M. assumed the persona of the blue crayon, Duncan’s favorite color;
  • S. decided to be pink, her favorite color which Duncan hadn’t even used once in the past year; and
  • Three-year-old Z. decided to be the OCD purple crayon, who will “completely lose it” if Duncan doesn’t “start coloring inside the lines soon,” even though her school doesn’t actually celebrate Halloween in any form.

Then, two days before the day, the bullies struck. Two little girls and a boy made fun of S. when she announced her costume plans to the class. In the classroom next door, three little girls laughed at M.

One of M.’s friends came to her aid and said that she would also be a crayon, a blunt red one, but S. wasn’t as lucky. She would be the lone crayon in her class.

S. wasn’t happy about it, as she told us at the bus stop the next morning, the day before the parade. S. is the type of child who usually keeps her feelings to herself until, seemingly out of the blue, she explodes into tears. So, we thanked her for volunteering the information and told her that we’d do our best to get her a new costume in time for the parade.*

Spots GaloreShe wanted to be a house cat, but the best I could do during my lunch hour was a cheetah/jaguar/leopard costume, which I pieced together from items from three stores. Then I had to find a book to match.

With only a few minutes left before I had to be on a conference call, I located a copy of Lois Ehlert’s Lots of Spots, which displays a cheetah on the cover.** The collage-style animals accompanied by silly rhymes are better for a younger audience, and thus are potentially fodder for bullies, but it was my only option.

That night, after my daughters finished their homework and a couple of First In Math games, we started our nightly reading. Unfortunately, thanks to my poor planning, we didn’t get to Lots of Spots until S. was starting to fall asleep. So, I skipped over a few of the poems, sped through the rest, and then tucked the book into her bag.

The next morning, after a successful parade, I watched with anticipation as S. stood in front of her classmates and their parents to explain the relationship between her costume and her book: She shrugged her shoulders and said, “I don’t know! I’ve never read it!”

I was mortified as the whole class laughed–but at least S. was laughing too.


*I remember feeling terribly embarrassed by my Halloween costumes, such as the T-Rex costume in the picture at the bottom of The Brontosaurus Between Us.

**For some reason, Lots of Spots also features several “spotless” animals, like Zebras and Tigers.


    1. Thanks, Caitlin! It was a funny ending, as mortified as I was at the time. As I’ve since learned, we already owned several books with cheetahs and/or leopards, but I just didn’t have time to find them before the event. I need to organize their bookshelves!

  1. Children can be so mean! I think the idea of crayon is so inventive, especially as it reflects the book – it certainly beats all the typical Hallowe’en costumes (I’m going to my friend’s party this year as a clockwork girl, and even that didn’t involve stretching my imagination). M’s costume is adorable. Did you make the hat and everything?

  2. How exhausting. I’m not sure the schools here make a big deal of Hallowe’en – it’s an evening thing when it’s OK for kids to talk to strangers a take sweets from them in exchange for not scaring and tricking them 🙂

  3. The girls look great! Those are some cool costumes. I’m so sorry that they had to deal with mean kids, but I hope they have fun with the rest of Halloween!

  4. I’m so sorry that M and S had a bully experience. That’s something I worry about daily, even though we’re a few years from elementary school. I think you handled the situation well, and I’m glad for M that she had a friend to join in, and for S that she was able to get a laugh in the end. (Also, THE DAY THE CRAYONS QUIT is a terrified book! These bullies don’t know what they’re talking about… But that’s obvious.)

    1. Thanks, Jaclyn. S. is very self-conscious. She’s actually pretty popular, while M. is less so, but M has a stronger core group of friends, including the one who was the red crayon. S. doesn’t have a friend like that, despite being invited to ALL the birthday parties (even when only 5 kids get to go!).

  5. Talk about last minute planning! I am glad you were able to make it work for your daughter in the end. I hate it when children ruin the fun of others.

    I worry (just a little) about Friday when my daughter shows up to school in her costume. I cannot sew and the person my daughter decided to be for Halloween isn’t one whose dress is sold in stores. So, she’s going to wear a Belle dress and probably be mistaken for a princess many times over both while trick-or-treating and by the other kids at her school Halloween party. I’m sure she’ll gladly correct them–She’s going as Queen Izzy-Bella from Jake and the Neverland Pirates.

    1. Yeah, I would’ve loved to have a regular Halloween parade. The storybook theme is a pretty good compromise, though. I like anything that encourages reading.

  6. That dinosaur costume of yours is adorable! Back then, I bet you didn’t think you’d ever share it on a blog. He he! I’m sorry to hear your kids are dealing with bullies.

    1. Ha! Thanks. It took me many years to overcome the embarrassment! My parents were trying to encourage my love of dinosaurs–which I now appreciate–but, at the time, I just felt too old to dress up as one.

  7. As we all know children can be very mean, but I think the way you handled the situation was great. I’m interested to know what the bullies dressed up as…

    1. Hi Liene! I can’t remember what all the girls were, but one was the Cat in the Hat and another was a princess. Sadly, but perhaps unsurprisingly, the little boy who laughed at S. (and who exhibits bullying behavior on a consistent basis) wasn’t dressed up at all. He was the only child in the class without a costume.

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