And, I have a confession to make. One night, while I was reading it to Sarah for maybe the 10th time, I had an “aha” moment that stopped me. Cold.
I realized what an absolutely amazing story this is. Yet, like many of you (I’m guessing), I was double-tasking in my head. While I was reading words and turning pages, I was also making mental lists of lunches to assemble, forms to fill out, laundry to fold. In the process, I had missed the nuance and the wonder. Never again.
Here’s the story in brief: Harold decides to go for a walk in the moonlight. But there was no moon that night. So he took his purple crayon – and he created a moon. Then he drew a pathway and an entire adventure through the woods, across an ocean, onto a sandy beach, up a mountain, back down in a hot air balloon, and, finally, home to bed.
It is the ultimate story of charting your own path and creating a world that you want to explore.
Age range: 4-8 – and remembered forever. A 45-year-old man wrote on Amazon: “This was perhaps my favorite childhood book. . . I always wanted to be an artist, and that is what Harold was, an artist with a magic purple crayon.”
Both younger and older children will enjoy using big, fat pieces of sidewalk chalk (let them choose their favorite color) to draw their own adventures. Ask them to describe them to you. Where did their journey take them? What did they see along the path?
Older children can even write up the story of where they went on the adventure they created. If they are working as a team, one can write, others can illustrate.
Or you can do the writing and leave the illustrations to the kids. That’s what I did with our girls for a story we called “Sarah the Starving.” Our six-year-old did this illustration for one of the pages.
All ages: Plan a trip to a farmer’s market and set the kids on an adventure to find purple food: eggplant, plums, purple cabbage, grapes, berries, etc. Buy what you can use of those. Then, when you get home, ask them to fill a beautiful basket with their finds to set in the middle of your dinner table. Ta-da! Grab your iPhone and snap a picture of your designers with their visual feast.
Younger children: Ask them to help you plan and make an all-purple snack: grapes or plums + grape juice + bagel or English muffin with cream cheese and grape jelly.
Ometz Lev – courage (lit. courage of the heart) – is about “not being fearful, finding the will within ourselves to face our fears, demonstrate a willingness to turn to G-d in trust and faith, and believing that we can get through tough times.”
If you think of it as determination to conquer obstacles, you can explore this concept as either sheer physical strength or strength of character – integrity, sticking to your principles.
Harold needed courage to set out on a journey into the unknown. He ran into a scary dragon, he tumbled topsy-turvy into an ocean, and he fell into thin air off the mountain. Each time, though, he came up with a solution.
Discuss something that is making your child anxious – like going to a new school, dunking his head all the way under in the swimming pool, or being away from home for the first time to stay with Grandma and Grandpa. Talk about strategies she can use when she is feeling uncertain.
You can even talk about times when you were anxious as a child – and what you did to overcome those worries.
For older children, you can talk about how ometz lev figures into key stories of our traditions – from Yocheved having the courage to put Moses into a basket to the outnumbered Maccabees fighting against much bigger odds.
If you are a distance grandparent, read the story to your little one via Skype. Depending on the age of the child, you can choose one of the discussions above to expand the meaning.
Another fun approach that could span a few months is to have your little one draw one page of his journey and mail it to you. You draw another piece, then mail back two pages. You send those back and forth a few times, until there are eight to ten pages to tape together across a whole wall that represent a journey you imagined together.
Do you love Harold and the Purple Crayon, too? Post pix of how you enjoyed the story and the activities on our Facebook page.
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