Johnson, Crockett. Harold and the Purple Crayon. New York: Scholastic, Inc., 1959.
This classic story is making a comeback! I was wandering the aisles at Target looking for a baby shower gift and this little gem was nestled in among the other books on the shelves. I hadn’t seen it in a long time. Here is a book I remembered from seeing it on Captain Kangaroo. The simple lines and movements were enhanced by the filming technique they used on that show. With simple lines, Crockett Johnson shows us Harold’s imagined journey. The clean, minimalist drawings allow a reader to travel along and add their own details. With a child it would be simple to have a discussion on “what will happen next” or “where will Harold go?”
This is a story of adventure and soaring imagination. Here’s the opening line, “One evening, after thinking it over for some time, Harold decided to go for a walk in the moonlight.” Harold proceeds to walk down the path and across the fields of his imagination. With his trusty purple crayon, he takes care of his needs (he draws the moon to light his way), rescues himself (he draws a boat so he does not drown) and when he has had enough adventure he figures out how to draw himself home (a view of the moon through his window).
After you read this book to your child, don’t hide the box of crayons get a large roll of newsprint! Let your child draw his/her own adventure, just not on your walls. Pick your favorite color crayon, pen or pencil and with a large pile, roll or stack of paper let your imaginary adventure begin.
Crockett Johnson is the pen name for David Johnson Liesk. Crockett was his childhood nickname. He was a cartoonist, child book author and painter. His comic strip Barnaby ran in papers from 1942 to 1946. He was friend and mentor to Maurice Sendak, who illustrated books for Crockett’s wife, Ruth Krauss. He wrote and drew during the McCarthy era and at one point he was under investigation by the FBI¹.
In his late life, he was fascinated by the pythagorean theory. He created a series of pictures based on proof of geometric theorems. In 1980 he had an exhibit at the National Museum of American History titled “Theorems in Color”. Take a look at this picture titled “Square Roots to Sixteen” an excellent example of his work².
You can read more about this author and see some of his art work at these websites.
- The Crockett Johnsonson Homepage: https://www.k-state.edu/english/nelp/purple/
- Cubes, Conic Sections, and Crockett Johnson- Johnson’s Mathematical Paintings: http://www.maa.org/press/periodicals/convergence/cubes-conic-sections-and-crockett-johnson-johnson-s-mathematical-paintings
- Crockett Johnson: The Slippery Slope from Comics to Fine Art: https://shrineodreams.wordpress.com/2012/08/21/crockett-johnson-the-slippery-slope-from-comics-to-fine-art/