If you’re thinking red Valentine’s gifts of for kids, here’s an idea a bit off the beaten path: Red, A Crayon’s Story by Michael Hall, just out this week. It’s a beautifully told, wonderfully illustrated story (in crayon, natch) about a red crayon who just isn’t very good at being red. In fact, whatever he tries to draw, at his grandparents’ or teacher’s or fellow crayon classmates’ urging, comes out blue, whether it’s an orange or a strawberry.

Of course Red finally figures out his true calling, finding the joy and freedom that comes with accepting himself for what he is. It makes for more than happy ending–I actually found it jubilant.

Related: Little Red Writing book: A picture book that inspires kids to write

The underlying messages about individuality, defying expectations, and finding your own path are absolutely perfect for children of any age. Preschoolers will enjoy the story at its most basic level, while early grade-schoolers will pick up on nuances and themes that you can discuss with them after. I can even see it becoming the kind of book that one gives to a high school or college graduate as she sets off to find her identity.

Red: A Crayon's Story by Michael Hall. Wonderful book about tolerance and finding your own path

As a parent, I think this book is an outstanding opener for conversations with kids about whether we can change other people, tolerance for differences, the danger of labels, and why sometimes what people look like on the outside betray who they are on the inside. These days, we all need more conversations like that.

I’d say Red is the perfect book at the perfect time.

You can now order Red, A Crayon’s Story written and illustrated by Michael Hall on our affiliate Amazon, or find it your local independent bookseller.