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World’s best “how-to book” not found in the self-help section

“Like a loyal animal, the imagination will come when it knows the door is open.”
–Carol Lloyd

My favorite how-to book will never be found in the self-help section of the bookstore. It was written long before the term self-help was even coined.

It’s a children’s book called Harold and the Purple Crayon and it rivals Oprah when it comes to addressing the possibilities of the human condition.

Written by Crockett Johnson in 1955, this little 65-page masterpiece tells the story of a little boy named Harold who decides to go out for a walk one evening. When there isn’t any moonlight (and, of course, everyone knows a good walk requires moonlight), Harold just takes out his purple crayon and draws the moon.

He also needs a sidewalk (which he draws) that leads to a forest (he only draws one tree because he doesn’t want to get lost) that turns out to be an apple tree (or at least it is after Harold’s crayon gets ahold of it). Unfortunately, the apples aren’t ripe yet, so Harold draws a frightening dragon to guard the tree.

When he falls into the ocean, Harold is able to grab his wits and his purple crayon to draw a boat and set sail for a beach, where he draws a picnic lunch with nine kinds of pie.

The whole book is about Harold’s great adventures scaling a mountain, soaring in a hot-air balloon and touring a city, all created by his ever-faithful purple crayon.

It’s a powerful book because it demonstrates a great spiritual truth—we are the authors of our own lives. We draw every detail—even the dragons and the oceans we “accidentally” fall into.

Harold could have gone on his walk, noticed there was no moon and sat down and pouted. Isn’t that what most of us do? “Damn, no moon. Better call my therapist, hit some pillows.” Or he could have drawn his moon, compared it to El Greco, and said, “I’m a hopeless shame. What was I thinking? Me? An artist?”

Instead, he kept reaching for his purple crayon and drawing every event, every answer, every friend he needed. We all have that power.

Harold was only a kid. He hadn’t yet lost his imagination, his sense of wonder and awe. No one had explained yet that he couldn’t have whatever he wanted. As long as he had his purple crayon, he could ride the universe.

Remember that big box of Crayolas with the 64 awesome colors? With that one small gold and green box you could have absolutely anything-—navy blue carousels with peach prancing ponies, magenta castles with yellow-green drawbridges, puffy white clouds and purple grass although your teacher might have frowned on that kind of thing. “Grass is green, don’t you know.”

Each year of school, the Crayola stash gets smaller. By the time we graduate from high school, we’re wielding nothing but a blue Bic for figuring our checking account.

Let’s go out this week and get some crayons. Let’s create our world the way we want it. And if we happen to fall into an ocean or run into a dragon, we’ll just draw ourselves a lifeboat and head for the beach, where at least one kind of pie will be waiting.

Pam Grout is the author of E-Squared, 9 Do-it-Yourself Energy Experiments that Prove Your Thoughts Create Your Reality.

One Response

  1. I loved Harold too. Now I know why it resonated so strongly with me.

    Have you read “Frederick” by Leo Lionni? It’s about the life of an artist. (While the other field mice work to gather grain and nuts for winter, Frederick sits on a sunny rock by himself. “I gather sun rays for the cold dark winter days,” he tells them. Another day he gathers “colors,” and then “words.” And when the food runs out, it is Frederick, the dreamer and poet, whose endless store of supplies warms the hearts of his fellow mice, and feeds their spirits during the darkest winter days. )

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