Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson

Where does imagination end and reality begin? When we’re younger, the line is blurred. We imagine and perceive things that may not technically be real, but to us, are as natural as the trees or sky. Harold and the Purple Crayon, written by Crockett Johnson, is a prime example of the boundaries (or lack of it) that we have as children, and where we can go with our minds, along with the fact that we don’t need to follow the rules of reality to get to someplace we need to be, or accept where we are right now.

harold and the purple crayon by crockett johnson

What Happens in Harold and the Purple Crayon?

One evening a small boy named Harold ponders the idea of a walk in the moonlight. When he decides to go for one, he realizes that there is no moon to cast moonlight, and there is no path for him to walk on. So he takes his large purple crayon and draws the moon, than a path for him to follow (a straight path, so he won’t get lost.) But sticking to a path that only goes straight gets dull, so Harold draws a shortcut over to a place he imagines a forest would be, but he doesn’t want to get lost in the woods, so he only draws a tiny forest consisting of one tree. It turns out the tree is an apple tree, and when they fruit is ripe it will no doubt be delicious, so Harold draws a very fierce dragon to guard it. The dragon turns out so fierce though that Harold is a bit frightened when he sees it, and his hand begins to tremble. Before he knows what’s happening, he’s accidentally drawn little waves and he is plummeting into an ocean. Thus begins an epic journey in which Harold must somehow find his way back to his room and his little bed, but the only constant in his surroundings is the moon he’s drawn, and how could the moon possibly help him?

harold and the purple crayon

The Drawings

I adore the illustrations in this book. Harold is fantastic, he sticks out not only because he is really the only thing on the pages aside from what he draws with his crayon, but also because he’s completely distinct in how he looks-I’ve yet to see another little boy in any other children’s book resemble Harold. The other illustrations consist of everything Harold draws with the purple crayon. His sketches are simple with thick, clean lines and a satisfying childish symmetry. The drawings are vital in this book-they are what make up Harold’s world and everything he does in it- and Crockett Johnson does a brilliant job with them.

Making Your Way

When I was younger, Harold and the Purple Crayon frightened me. I was unnerved by the fact that there was nothing around but what Harold decided to draw, everything seemed so empty, and Harold, so alone. Over the years I kept coming back to the book though, despite the fact it threw me off a bit I was intensely curious about it, and I began to grow quite fond of it. Now, instead of seeing it as just an interesting and incredibly unique tale, I saw it for what it really was-a story that reminds us to forget about the boundaries of reality we place on ourselves every day, and learn to appreciate drawing our own paths, instead of following the ones others have laid out for us.

Is Harold and the Purple Crayon one of your favorites as a child?

2 Responses to “Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson”

  1. Maureen says:

    My favorite graduation gift is a copy of this book and a purple crayon.

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