Harold and the Purple Crayon: A New Adventure (I Can Read Level 2)
“a keen disappointment”
The new adventures of Harold isn’t a reissue of the classic adventures of the boy who draws his world with his purple crayon. Instead, it’s the first in a promised series of more “advanced” Harold books, meaning with more complicated vocabulary. The revised Harold and the Purple Crayon couldn’t be more different that the original it supposedly emulates. The original Harold books explored the joys of creativity and imagination, playing with all the different ways a line can be evocative—a shaky line becomes water, a circle can be a pie as easily as a wheel. Where the magic of the purple crayon is shown by what Harold does with it, in this new version the author feels the need to spell out what is happening:
“Once there was a boy named Harold. He went on a lots of adventures. Harold always brought his purple crayon along. Harold’s crayon was special. Whatever Harold drew came to life!”
The exclamation point is a warning of the forced “fun” that will ensue. In this revisiting of the original story, Harold looks like a digital creation, lacking the charm of his fluidly hand-drawn original. As he grows up, the Harold character looks even less appealing than the child version. Even the language is more heavy-handed than the clear directness of the original:
“Harold had to think fast! Harold quickly drew a boat and climbed aboard.
‘Phew!’ Harold said. “What could be lurking in these waters?’
Just then Harold’s boat hit something. Boom!”
After this clumsy retelling along the lines of Crockett Johnson’s Harold and the Purple Crayon, the new Harold grows up, not by developing his drawing or storytelling skills, but by learning to drive, surely the most superficial of markers for adulthood. At the end, the story takes a strange turn, with Harold wondering who made him since he himself has made his friends, the moose and porcupine.
“’But who made me?’ Harold asked.
‘I did,’ said a voice.
‘Who are you?’ Harold said, looking up into the white sky.
‘I’m the narrator,’ the voice replied. ‘I live in the real world.’”
The answer sounds vaguely religious. There’s no fun or humor in the voice, and Harold opens the door he’s drawn to step into “real life,” whatever that’s supposed to be.
For those expecting a Harold adventure that celebrates visual thinking and storytelling, this book will be a keen disappointment. Instead of that delightful sense of play, sparking creativity, this book slogs along the lines of the earlier story while avoiding any of its charm and ends with the heavy-handed message that the “real world” is what really matters. So go and do your homework and clean your room, if you want to follow where this awkward Harold takes you. Otherwise, the reader would be wise to return to Crockett Johnson’s classic works and leave this pale imitation behind.