April: Hey, did you do that glitter heart on your cheek?
Lorelai: Happens to be my handiwork, yeah. Why? You want one?
Lorelei: All right. Sit, sit. What color would you like—pink, blue, purple, florescent green?
April: Purple, I’m obsessed with purple, probably because I’m obsessed with Harold and the Purple Crayon. I know I’m too old, but it’s still one of my all-time favorite books.
Lorelai: Oh, that’s okay. I’m too old for Us Weekly. Never stopped me.
—Season 6, Episode 20
Whenever I hear the name Harold, I think of poor old King Harold II of England, who was defeated at the Battle of Hastings by William the Conquerer.* Harold died in the battle, but England carried on, reinventing itself, so to speak, under a new king.
Reinvention is certainly a theme in the book under discussion this week, which is why I want to tell April: You are NEVER too old for “Harold and the Purple Crayon.” This enchanting little children’s book is about a boy called Harold who uses his trusty purple crayon to create the world he wants to inhabit.
On the first page, we see random squiggles, clearly the product of Harold and his crayon. With his eye on the blank page opposite, he decides it might be nice to go for a walk in the moonlight. Only there is no moon. So Harold draws one. And then he draws a path to walk along. Next, thinking a stroll in a small forest sounds lovely, he draws an apple tree. To guard his enticing creation, he draws a scary dragon. But it's so scary that it scares Harold. His hand starts shaking, and before he knows it, he has inadvertently created an ocean in which he promptly begins sinking! Thinking fast, he uses his crayon to draw a boat to spirit him safely across the sea.
And so the story goes. Each of Harold's creations leads to a new challenge. Since he doesn’t have one of those fancy, new-fangled erasable crayons, Harold can only move forward, improvising on the fly as he goes. Harold creates and problem solves right up until the last page, when he climbs into the bed has has drawn and draws up the covers.
In the way of the most excellent children's picture books, the story functions as an allegory for living. Don’t you think?
* To my first year college European history professor, I commend you. Embarrassingly enough, I cannot remember your name, though you taught me well: I have never forgotten 1066, Harold II, and the Battle of Hastings.