As a child, I took books seriously. Transported into their world, I followed their paths, smelling the smells, seeing the sights, experiencing the fears, hopes, loves, dreams and terrors of the characters without the barriers of pages, words, covers or time. I wandered the roads of England with Isaac the Jew in his cart, Rebecca looking over my shoulder as she tended to Ivanhoe who lay wounded in the back. I strolled from Longbourn to Meryton behind the Bennett sisters, holding my skirts up and stepping daintily if there was too much mud. Like Ender, I felt compassion and determination in the spherical confines of Battle School, breathing the air and drinking the water that had been recycled through the bodies of the other students countless times.
Perhaps because of the total immersion I experience in books, I never liked reading anything frightening or sad. I’ve never read Stephen King, and the Hunger Games, which I read recently, gave me nightmares for two weeks. Even a picture book like Harold and the Purple Crayon scared me. I was terrified by the fact that Harold never really — or so it seemed to me — found his way back home.
Harold has always been a sore spot for me. I know the book is considered timeless, and not being able to appreciate it bothered me. But on Saturday, during Bryan Collier’s speech at the conference, I had a moment of enlightenment, and now I know why I feared the book so much. “When Harold hang the moon in the sky, that was magic,” Collier said. “I’ve been chasing Harold ever since.” And suddenly I understood: that’s the meaning of true adventure — following the lines of the purple crayon through the book.
I had been terrified to follow Harold, because I feared losing sight of home. In my eyes, Harold ventures forth into an unknown world which he creates by himself, moving farther and farther away from his home, and when finally he wants to go back, he doesn’t know how to return. But Harold does not need to go back. He is making magic! He is on the adventure of life. His bed is where it always is, under a window framing the moon, and Harold can sleep there in peace because he trusts in the process. He trusts the adventure. He trusts in the impermanence of life. And mostly, he trusts that his home is in him.
For years, Harold has been calling to me to follow my purple crayon, but instead of following him, I’ve been sitting around moaning my inability to fly. Harold says, you want to fly? Here, take your crayon and draw yourself wings. You want to go home? Here, take your crayon and draw yourself the moon. You want to climb a mountain? Here is your crayon. Climb a mountain. Write a novel. Fly on the wings of dragons. Go on your adventure without any fear because you don’t need to look back. You have everything you need right there in your hand.
Which adventure would you like to follow with your purple crayon?
Do you have a picture book which scared you as a child but you can now see in a new light?