Duncan is assigned a coloring assignment in class, but when he looks inside of his crayon box, he sees a box of letters saying that the crayons quit! His crayons are through working as crayons, and they have sent Duncan a lot of letters expressing their various feelings about how they are being treated. In order to make his crayons happy again, Duncan must figure out some way to please each of them, for they all have different reasons for quitting.
The conflicts that are presented in the crayons’ letters to Duncan explore obligation vs. self- interest, social norms, and aesthetics. This book asks a series of important questions including these: Which is more important, fulfilling your obligations or tending to your self-interest and well- being? Do social norms get in the way of one’s identity? Is there good or bad art?