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Literature / Harold and the Purple Crayon

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Harold and the Purple Crayon is an illustrated children’s book first published in 1955 by Crockett Johnsonnote . The story follows a little boy named Harold as he wanders around drawing his own reality with his purple crayon and trying to get home.

Harold is colored in with a blue jumpsuit and Caucasian skin on the book's covernote , and in black-and-white in the story itself. Everything else in the story is purple, since it was drawn with the crayon; this lets the reader see that Harold is somehow more real than everything else.

It has received several sequels, and also been adapted into a series of children's animated shorts, as well as an animated series on HBO (produced by Sony Pictures Television). The series is completely available on DVD, so no need to hunt hard for it.

A live-action film is due to release in 2024, starring Zachary Levi. No, really.

The books are aimed at children ages 3 to 8, but each one is a good quick read for adults.

Titles in the series:

  1. Harold and the Purple Crayon (1955)
  2. Harold's Fairy Tale (1956)
  3. Harold's Trip to the Sky (1957)
  4. Harold at the North Pole (1958)
  5. Harold's Circus (1959)
  6. A Picture for Harold's Room (1960)
  7. Harold's ABC (1963)

Harold and the Purple Crayon provides examples of:

  • Adaptation Expansion: The 13-episode HBO series narrated by Sharon Stone.
  • Art Initiates Life: Harold's crayon brings his drawings to life.
  • Artistic License – Animal Care: In one episode, Harold has a goldfish that is kept in a fishbowl. The fish later dies.
  • Art Shift: Each episode of the HBO series had Book Ends set in Harold's bedroom, which looked more realistic than the rest of the backgrounds.
  • Death by Newbery Medal: "I Remember Goldie", wherein Harold's fish Goldie dies and he learns about death.
  • Death Is a Sad Thing: Harold learns about death when his pet goldfish dies.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: It's a series about a boy named Harold and his purple crayon.
  • The Faceless: Harold's mom in the animated series. The audience mainly got to see her hands; her body was seen once (from the back, so we can't see her face), she's a short-haired brunette woman with a red shirt.
  • Face of a Thug: The dragon who guards the apple tree has a menacing appearance that frightens Harold and his friends, but he later turns out to be a Gentle Giant.
  • Gentle Giant: The dragon guarding the apple tree looks scary, but is actually very friendly.
  • Gentle Giant Sauropod: Double subverted in "Blast From the Past". Harold goes to search for a giant sauropod to ride on, but when he finally encounters one, a Titanosaurus, he seemingly menaces Harold, his Pteranodon friend, and a herd of other dinosaurs. But after Harold saves him from a tarpit, the Titanosaurus turns out be a Gentle Giant and was only aggressive because the other dinosaurs ate his supply of pinecones that he had been saving for winter. Once Harold draws him giant pinecones to feed him, the sauropod returns the favor by giving him the ride that he wanted.
  • The Homeward Journey: In each of the books, Harold uses his crayon to go on adventures of his own invention, and then must use it to send him back home.
  • Mental World: One possible explanation in the books. Played straight in the TV series.
  • Mime and Music-Only Cartoon: Only Sharon Stone's narration contrasts this.
  • Nonstandard Character Design: Harold contrasts against the people he draws, who have little more than purple outlines.
  • Reality Warper: Harold can bend his created world to his wants.
  • Short-Runner: The animated TV series on HBO Family only lasted 13 episodes.
  • Temper-Ceratops: In "Blast From the Past", the first dinosaur Harold encounters is an aggressive Triceratops that tries to trample him before he gets saved by the timely arrival of a Pteranodon. Subverted by the Centrosaurus that is among the friendly dinosaurs trying to flee from the volcanic eruption.
  • Terrifying Tyrannosaur: Surprisingly subverted. While Tyrannosaurus does appear in "Blast From the Past", it is mainly in cameos and non-threatening. (It's Triceratops that plays the role of the "antagonistic" dinosaur.)
  • The Voiceless: Harold. In some episodes of the HBO series, Harold would get to deliver one or two lines, but the narrator would still do most of the talking.
  • Weird Moon: Always accompanies Harold in his adventures.

Alternative Title(s): Harold And The Purple Crayon