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The Books That Made Me; Harold and the Purple Crayon

I still remember coming around the corner in my elementary school and seeing signs for the Scholastic Book Fair. Our media center was transformed into a book store and I wanted to take them all home. As an adult, I haven’t changed all that much. I always volunteer to help kids shop because the only thing better than buying books is helping someone else buy books.

Remember Kathleen Kelly in You’ve Got Mail? She said, “When you read a book as a child, it becomes a part of your identity in a way that no other reading in your whole life does.” I couldn’t agree more, Kathleen. For the next few weeks, I’m going to highlight some of my favorite picture books -those that have become a part of my identity.

In 1955, Crockett Johnson wrote a delightful little book called, Harold and the Purple Crayon. Even if you haven’t read it, I imagine the cover looks familiar. It’s rare that a book from the fifties still holds up. So many books from that time are offensive in some way to some group, but old Harold is just as charming today as he was 66 years ago.

Let me jog your memory, in case you’ve forgotten the premise of the book. Harold (after much consideration) decides to take a walk in the moonlight. However, when he gets outside, there is no moon. Harold draws a moon and a path to walk on and so on. He encounters adventure after adventure in his purple-lined drawings.

When I was thinking of the lessons found in this book, my first thought was that creativity can take you anywhere. And while that’s (of course) the theme of the story, my seven-year-old daughter says the point is definitely “Always bring your purple crayon.” I agree with that too. I learned a few other things from Harold:

Draw Moons

“There wasn’t any moon, and Harold needed a moon for a walk in the moonlight.”

He didn’t take a walk without moonlight or go back inside. He simply drew a moon. I don’t know what “drawing moons” looks like in your life, but I know there are times when we have to make things work. I think of my kids’ teachers who spent the entire last school year drawing moons. I’m a planner, so I often have specific expectations, but I’ve found that most of my growth hasn’t taken place within a plan, but when I was forced to draw a moon.

Protect What’s Precious

“He didn’t want to get lost in the woods, so he made a very small forest with just one tree in it. It turned out to be an apple tree. The apples would be very tasty, Harold thought, when they got red. So he put a frightening dragon under the tree to guard the apples. It was a terribly frightening dragon.”

As a parent, I never have to be reminded to protect my kids. But there are things that are precious I forget to protect -my time, my friendships, my spirit. I underestimate the lengths others will go to steal the apples and I forget to draw a terribly frightening dragon to protect them. A regular date night is a dragon to protect my marriage. I have to remind myself to put precious things first, or else I’ll fill my time with things that don’t really matter.

Be Generous

“The sandy beach reminded Harold of picnics. And the thought of picnics make him hungry. So he laid out a nice simple picnic lunch. There was nothing but pie. But there were all nine kinds of pie that Harold liked best. When Harold finished his picnic, there was quite a lot left over. He hated to see so much delicious pie go to waste, so Harold left a hungry moose and a deserving porcupine to finish it up.”

Harold’s picnic lunch is so great. All pie. If pressed, I’m not sure I could think of nine kinds of pie. But Harold has nine favorites. When he gets full, he knows he needs to draw someone to finish off the pies. I love that he chooses a “hungry moose” and a “deserving porcupine”. I don’t know what the porcupine did to be so deserving, but I’m sure he enjoyed the pie.

Generosity often blesses the giver more than the receiver. I love this proverb:

“One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want. Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered.”

-Proverbs 11:24-25

I think of the hungry moose and deserving porcupines in my life in need of some generosity. Harold gave them pie. I can be generous too.

Find Your Way Home

“Then, suddenly, Harold remembered. He remembered where his bedroom window was when there was a moon. It was always right around the moon. And then Harold made his bed, got in it, and he drew up the covers.”

Harold’s quest for home involves drawing lots of windows, but in each of them, he’s on the outside. It’s not until he draws a moon in the window that he arrives at home. Suddenly, he’s inside. When I neglect the things that make me me, I feel like I’m wandering around drawing windows. There are times when I feel a little off. Unsettled. Usually it’s a result of protecting things that aren’t precious. I get distracted and forget who I am. Then I spend some time connecting with God or a good friend and suddenly, I’m home. The moon is in the window and I can rest and drop my purple crayon.

I’m thankful for the lessons in this beautiful classic. We can all be reminded to draw moons, protect what’s precious, be generous, and find a way home. If you have young people in your life, get a copy of this book for them. And maybe pick up a purple crayon to go with it.




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