Flashback Friday: “Harold and the Purple Crayon”

Amanda McHugh ’18 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

When children are young, the world is their oyst er. They can let their imaginations run free, and anything they can think happens. Kids are unlimited, infinite, and carefree. Nothing can hold their minds back, and nothing does. These premises are used in a story about four-year-old Harold in the children’s book Harold and the Purple Crayon.

Harold and the Purple Crayon follows Harold’s imagination as he creates a world around him with his giant purple crayon. He first starts off by going for a walk under the moon, and ends up exploring a forest, riding in a sailboat, and having a picnic with woodland creatures. Finally, Harold decides to find his room to go to bed, and he draws a window around the moon, draws a bed, and draws the covers up over him.

Harold and the Purple Crayon. Source: HarperCollins Children's Books
Harold and the Purple Crayon. Source: HarperCollins Children’s Books

Written in 1955 by Crockett Johnson, and published by Harper & Brothers, Harold and the Purple Crayon has thus inspired many young children to believe that the world can be limitless. All a person needs is something to write with, some paper, and their mind to create something as amazing as Harold’s adventure with his purple crayon. There are no extravagant pictures in the book that would take away from the book’s idea, but instead simple 2D, purple drawings that make Harold stand out in his blue pajamas. It helps give the illusion that anyone, at even as young as four, can let their imaginations run free and have fun. Johnson went on to write a series of books featuring Harold, some including Harold’s Fairy Tale, Harold’s Trip to the Sky, and Harold at the North Pole.

Since its publication, the book has been adapted into other forms, and has even inspired TV shows. Western Wood Studios and Brandon Films made a seven-minute short film in 1959, narrated by Norman Rose. In addition, Gene Deitch made an animation in 1971 called A Picture of Harold’s Room, and one in 1974 called Harold’s Fairy Tale. In 2002, the stories were adapted into a 13-episode television series on HBO, and won an Emmy Award for ‘Main Title Design.’ Harold has even made an appearance in the title sequence of The Simpsons, where he’s drawing in their living room.

In 2010, Sony Picture Animations and Will Simth’s Overbook Entertainment announced they are developing a computer-animated film adaption of Harold and the Purple Crayon. However, no other news has been said about this since its release. Harold and the Purple Crayon has also been said to inspire the kid’s TV show Chalkzone. Similar to Harold and the Purple Crayon, Chalkzone follows a boy, Rudy Tabootie, who creates a superhero out of chalk and goes on adventures with him.

Harold and the Purple Crayon is a timeless classic that has been a successful children’s book for six decades. It’s no wonder why the book still ranks on the Top 100 Children’s Books, according to School Library Journal. Whether kids read it in school, with a parent, or even on their own, Harold and the Purple Crayon is a reminder that imaginations have no limits as long as they can run free.


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