Must Have List: One Purple Crayon
Every Boy Needs A Crayon
Raising three boys means I raised bits and pieces of quite a few other young men as well. How so? Well, each of my son's had his own friends, and those friends might have brothers, and before you knew it the double batch of chocolate chip cookies was gone. The house was in a comfortable shambles, knee hockey sticks, light sabers, and legos scattered everywhere. And, depending on which boys devoured the cookies, a new story or two was added to my mental bookshelf of memories.
Especially if one of the young ones was Tom. I am pretty sure Crockett Johnson misnamed this book. It has always been my sons' friend Thomas who comes to my mind when I think of a boy with a traveling story line. When Tom came over he regaled the group with the most outrageous stories, delivered with enthusiasm and a wide-eyed assurance that each and every word was true. Adults and kids alike would listen, mesmerized, as he told tale after tale.
If I gently pressed him to admit something could not have possibly happened he would take a deep breath and wander a different direction with the story. All his adventures began with an event that had a factual basis but then journeyed, like Harold, into the wild and mystical landscape of Tom's mind. The biggest fish, the hardest slap shot, the craziest great-uncle -- all Tom's stories dealt with hyperbole, and none of them really ended until some other boy wrestled him to the floor or everyone went back outside to play ghosts in the graveyard or home run derby in the back.
But Some Need A Purple One
Harold and the Purple Crayon helped this mom and her sons make sense of a world that sometimes seems crazy, without structure or the expected happy endings. If you are not familiar with the book it is a fairly simple premise with a rich, embroidered rendition. Harold wonders about the world outside his window one night at bedtime and, with the help of an ever-shining crescent moon, drawn in typical resourceful manner by himself, he wanders out into its blank canvas, his trusty purple crayon clutched in his fist. Harold draws his own journey, imagines his conflicts and problems, solving them with quick thinking and a deft hand on the crayon. He then sails home again on waves of imagination and ingenuity to a homey window and comfy bed upon which he "draws" his covers, safe and snug.
Tom's mom was a dear friend with three sons like me, but with a challenge I would wish on no one. Ever since she discovered a lump when nursing her youngest son she battled an aggressive breast cancer. Our families of hockey playing boys grew closer as the cancer fought constantly to take her away. Each of her kids dealt with unspeakable sadness, fear and anger in his own way with the adults doing what they could to support.
Tom's over-the-top tales where he slew any manner of dragons were a way, I believe, to try to manage the feeling of helplessness and terror he experienced as his mother bravely faced her aggressor. Partially to gain some attention as the middle son and partially to hold the wolf behind the door Tom sat at the kitchen counter with me time and time again telling his stories. One day I remember saying, "Thomas, you certainly have a purple crayon!" hugging him as he pulled away, semi-indignantly, to continue the tale.
He was puzzled, so I gathered that day's "wild-bunch" together in front of the fireplace and read them Harold and the Purple Crayon. My three were familiar with the story line and shouted out Harold's solutions to certain tragedy and possible death. Tom, listening at last, absorbed the story and to a great extent the point I had been making. His eyes twinkled and he relaxed with the rest as Harold "drew" his destiny, with that steadfast moon lighting the way back to home.
Hold Tightly To That Crayon
The loss of a parent is devastating whenever it happens, and when Tom lost his mom at age 15 he struggled mightily. His friends and family did what they could, some dealing with their own raw pain. I was extremely proud of my sons and their care and compassion for Thomas, which continues to this day. No longer the passel of pups that tossed the living room, that cookie-eating crew has grown into giants who tower over me.
Still willing to come into our home to spin his tales, Tom regularly visits. He tears my heart out on Mother's Day and Christmas by calling me his "second mom," and then reattaches and repairs it instantly with his bear hug. He considers my sons his brothers and cheers them on or cuts them down to size depending on what they need at any given point. My husband keeps up with the latest local craft beers as Tom has a case with him every few visits to repay for the breakfasts, lunches, and dinners he shared with us while growing up.
Tom held onto his sanity as a child and adolescent with his stories, meandering, wild, outrageous, and always charming. When he sits down on the couch with my husband and me these days, sans light saber or knee hockey stick, he still prefaces the conversation by saying, "Let me take out my purple crayon and tell you what I've been doing."
Harold is probably drawing me a tissue right now.
Proof that a true friend sees through fancy clothes and shiny labels, Corduroy is a book that resonates with kids of all ages. Still a favorite of the kindergartners and 1st graders I teach!
We all have days like Alexander's, and it helps somehow to read about his when life is not going well. A must for every family and classroom.
Guaranteed to bring a tear to your eye, this is the ultimate first day of school book to calm the fears of your first time student. Makes mom or dad feel a little better, too.
Here are a couple of videos -- one just a bit edgier than the other. Good literature always encourages a range of approaches to sharing, doesn't it?
Short, sweet and to the point. Just like Harold. Nice job!
A little different, but Harold would approve. We all need to find our own way.