YOUR CHOICE…Watch my book review OR read it below.
In many stories, a magic wand is the powerful catalyst of change, making things appear, alter, or disappear. But in recent years, a challenger has emerged. Enter the well-known and ubiquitous home and school art tool, the crayon.
If crayons had one more power, the power to create and make possible anything we want, then crayons are indeed equal to magic wands.
Why not? Crayons are special. They carry color, and color is magical. Crayons release color onto all sorts of surfaces. What was once dull or monotone is transformed. Crayons can leave markings, from straight lines to scribbles, to convey shapes, tone, or messages.
An alternative to that magical tool is one that I think is more powerful. It’s more powerful because it can change things but it also changes the person holding it. I’m speaking of the crayon. Crayons are familiar objects to very young kids all the way up to adults. They convey color along with fun. But a passive crayon holds little influence. We have to pick up. We have to find some sort of surface that will help release its color. We have to move and we have to move the crayon. We usually start with scribbling but soon we are called to do more. We draw something we can see in front of us. Going beyond that, we draw and color that which we see inside of us. Crayons force us to see more, feel more, dig out more.
Two books, one from the mid-1950s, and one from a few years ago, show this magic of crayons.
Crockett Johnson’s Harold and the Purple Crayon (part of a series)
Harold is a very young boy who has a purple crayon that gives him the power to create adventures, far from his home. The adventures are simply drawn, because Harold has to draw them himself. There is limited text that describes what Harold must be thinking and explains what he is doing.
He has a lot of drawing to do. First he draws the means of accessing an adventure. Then he has to fill the blank page with each of the elements of the adventure. If he needs help, he draws someone or something to get help. If he wants to eat or rest, he must draw a way to get those things. Harold must be constantly thinking and creating.
I recommend this series of books for young children as an introduction to visualizing for problem-solving, fun, learning, memory recall, and adventure. In addition to Harold and His Purple Crayon the series includes Harold’s Fairy Tale; Harold’s Trip to the Sky; Harold’s Circus; and Harold’s ABC.
Aaron Becker’s book is more complex than Harold and His Purple Crayon which makes it suited for older children. It contains beautiful detailed illustrations and zero text.
A lonely girl is shown at home trying to get someone join her for some play. A red scooter, a red kite, and a red ball go unexplored. Resigned, she retreats to her darken room. After her cat wakes up and walks out the bedroom door, the unnamed girl sees a red crayon on the floor. She picks it up and this begins her crayon as magic wand adventures.
To get things going, the girl like Harold, has to draw her way out and into an adventure. Unlike Harold who stays in a very limited world comprised of what he can visualize, the lonely girl finds herself in vast world of complexity.
To me, this the opening image above expresses the difference between visualizing and imaging, a difference that we should get to know well. Using the crayon to create the door and to walk through it is within the realm of visualization. The unknown world created for and not by her, is imagining. We can move into and through imagination and make some changes, but the overall imaginal realm is out of our hands.
Traveling in the imaginal world is not always easy. The lonely girl has to work hard to elude powerful forces she soon encounters there. That world is very complex with rules and conflicts she knows nothing about. She does respond to a conflict where it appears that a bird of freedom/creativity has been caged and soldiers are moving the bird to a steampunk-like flying fortress.
Through bravery, the girl gets the bird set free but in that action, the girl herself gets captured. The remainder of the book is about how she escapes and what she does after.
Red is used throughout the book to highlight objects used for transport, play, magic, and creativity. We see a red flying carpet, a red hot-air balloon, a red door, and a red boat, all created by the girl with her red crayon. But some of the objects were there early in the book but are unused because the girl couldn’t find anyone to play with. The girl finds she doesn’t always have to wait for others to enjoy play, adventure, and transport. She has her red magic crayon.
I recommend this book. It can be used as an introduction to visualizing, paying attention to the magic that can be found around us, using creativity to escape, the power of exploration, and the depth and breadth of our imagination.
Aaron Becker has two more books about the lonely girl where she uses a magic marker and magic chalk to continue her travels. The titles of these books are Quest and Return.