Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson is my children’s current favourite book. It was introduced to me by Isis Ixworth, a very creative, artistic and talented writer, currently working on her own children’s books. It really captures my 4 year old and 3 year old’s attention. It also engages my 1 year old, who normally potters around during story time. After researching it a little, it seems to be a “classic” in parts of America, but I had never heard of it until I read Isis’ post. Thankfully, although not available in our own library, it is available in Kawagoe City Chuo Library.(note on library collections below).
Harold and the Purple Crayon is the story of a young boy who goes for a walk in a world he draws for himself with a purple crayon. He gets tired and wants to go home to his bed, but first he has to find his window which he does when he remembers how to draw it. Crockett Johnson presents this imaginative story in a beautifully simplistic and an easily comprehensible style. Given that my children truly immerse themselves in Harold’s adventures, I wanted to do an activity that would interest them just as much. My 4 year old is very interested in writing at the moment, so I thought it would be fitting to make our own books and write our own imaginative stories with a purple crayon. I also had the advice of Expat Since Birth fresh in my mind; to encourage 4 year old to read English by having him read to his younger sisters.
My children are bilingual, with Japanese being their main language, although I speak English to them. My 4 year old developed an interest in writing Japanese, off his own bat, shortly after turning four. So I have been trying to support and expand his interest, while gently sparking the same passion in English. Today, he really enjoyed making his own booklet and then filling it with his own story. He was very interested how to write the words in English, he needed for his story. 3 year old enjoyed making the book too and then drawing for a short time, but she lost interest after drawing three pages. I thought this would be of more interest to her than him, as she is a visual learner and he is an auditory learner. Their little wonderful minds never cease to amaze me!
Using recycled paper, we folded the paper picture side in. The fold part is to the right of the page, the open part to the left. We initially put 3 pieces of folded paper, so 6 pages, in the booklet and punched holes on the open part. We then used recycled wool to tie the papers together. On the front page I wrote “and the purple crayon” and they entered their name above it. Then they drew their own stories. 4 year old ran out of pages, so I made a 2nd bigger booklet for him while he wrote key words on each of his pages drawn so far. He finished the 2nd booklet with thunder (as you do as an imaginative 4 year old) and wanted to know how to spell it, his first 7 letter word. Success! I think I will be keeping this book in the memory box. He really enjoyed regaling his story too and his little sisters thrilled in his performance.
English books at libraries in Japan
I have found that, of the libraries I have visited and researched, there is a good selection of “classic” English stories for children, especially those that were popular in the United States during Japan’s boom. I have found that newer titles of children’s books are not available in English, in this part of Saitama. However, between fairy tales and best-selling authors, such as Eric Carle, Leo Lionni, Beatrix Potter, Dr. Seuss and Maurice Sendak, there are plenty to choose from.
Other activities I have seen online for Harold and the Purple Crayon