Harold and the Purple CrayonCrockett Johnson, Harold and the Purple Crayon (n.p.: HarperCollinsPublishers, 1955).

John Hobbins graciously included me in a group of bloggers he invited to be part of a blogathon on Children’s books (announcement here). Some posts of the posts so far include the magical Land of Xanth, His Dark Materials, and Judy Bloom’s books. The book I have chosen is aimed at a younger audience but upon reading it again for this post it is no less special to me. 

When I was first proposed with the idea of a post on children’s books I started with trying to think of children’s books that I could even remember. This one stood out. I don’t think there has been a more imaginative presentation of the color purple.

Harold and the Purple Crayon is the first in a series of books about a little boy’s imaginative adventures with his purple crayon. I think of him as Tommy from Rugrats before there was a Tommy from Rugrats. He is a resourceful, logical, and quick thinking little boy who gets himself out of any trouble with the help of his purple crayon. It is a great little adventure story for children as well as throwing in little witticisms and puns that keep the adults chuckling (e.g., Harold ‘draws’ up his covers at the end of the book). 

The thing that stuck with me about this book as a child is that the world is what you make of it (also a great line by Linda Hunt in ‘Silverado’). I am a person who thinks in stories and images (probably why narrative theology and literary criticism is most interesting to me). As a child I would often entertain myself on road-trips by examining the landscape around me and imagining what kind of fantastical scene or story could take place on that landscape. I still do this to this day. Furthermore this book was a stimulus to pursue all sorts of serious imagination from a very early age. If Harold was capable of such adventures with only his purple crayon, then what kind of imaginings was I capable of in my own head (which has at least a 256 color palette). I think a good imagination is a necessary for life in general but especially for the intellectual life which I am currently pursuing.

As an adult I take many more messages from this book. Harold is a very logical character. He needed a moon for his walk in the moonlight, so he drew a moon. I want to pursue biblical studies so I am learning the biblical languages, German, etc. Another great analogy I draw from Harold is his anchor in the story. In the story Harold goes for an adventure but can’t find his window when he wants to get back home. Throughout the story, the moon is with him. It is only when Harold realizes that the moon is always in the middle of his window at night that he correctly orients his world and finds his room. As a Christian, Christ and his Word are my moon, that I try to correctly orient my world around in order to be where I am supposed to be.

Maybe I am reading too much into this little children’s tale but it has that kind of simplicity that allows for such musings and analogies. I recommend this book to children and adults alike. It is fun, it is imaginative and it is worth a few minutes of time. If for nothing else than to join a small boy and imagine the world in purple. Thanks John for the impetus of this post and I look forward to further installments in this series.