Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Harold and that F#%^ing Purple Crayon

I recently discovered the Character Assassination Carousel, a vessel in which hysterically funny writers take down or "assassinate" terrible children's book characters. I know I am coming pretty late to this CAC party, but I come late to most parties. In fact, I tend to be late wherever I am going... except airports. I have way too much anxiety to get to the airport late. In fact, airports may be the only place I am routinely early. Oh sh!t, where was I? Oh yes, the Character Assassination Carousel.

I was shocked to see that Harold and the Purple Crayon had made it through these past three years unscathed. Don't get me wrong, there has been some glorious bashing/berating/slaying of some very deserved kid lit. Why, just last month the very talented Kylie at The Life of Kylie brought Carl the Good terrible Dog into my life nightmares. And up next is the lovely, and justifiably confused Amy at AmysRealLife trying to make sense of the nonsense in Bert and the Missing Mop Mix-up. But someone's gotta take this little sh!t Harold down, and I am more than happy to step up and do it. Nicole at Ninja Mom has kindly agreed to let me take a spin. So let's do this thing.

Assuming you aren't familiar with me or my blog, I am prone to the odd rant. Surely a 30-something mother b!tching about a small child in footie pajamas who likes to color qualifies as an odd rant. I am also prone to indecision, which is why I may end up mentioning some other books I dislike like, I Ain't Gonna Paint No More and several of the Mr. Men and Little Miss books in this Harold and the Purple Crayon take down.

But first, let me address Harold and his damn crayon. At face value this book, like many of the others featured on the Character Assassination Carousel, seems innocent enough: precious little boy who likes to utilize his imagination and creativity has a penchant for illustration, even if his palette could do with a bit more variety. But don't be fooled! Harold and his purple crayon wield a much more common and easily attainable threat than say, Harold and the Sharp Knife, Harold and Some Household Bleach, Harold and the Book of Matches or the most critically acclaimed of the series, Harold and the Purple Dildo. The purple crayon poses the biggest threat because most* of us know to keep those other things away from our kids. 

Our knives are kept in their holder at the back of the counter, household bleach is locked up, books of matches are out of reach, and, um, yeah, well you get the point. We keep things that we know to be dangerous (or wildly inappropriate) well out of reach of our sweet, impressionable children. What we do let them play with, however, are crayons. The problem is this: crayons cannot peacefully coexist in a house with this book. The book quite literally illustrates the miscreant behavior of drawing all over the walls and plants the seed of artistic glory in our little sponges' heads. Of course they are going to model the behavior they see in books, as in life. They are children. That's what they do. 

I first became aware of this sh!tty book six years ago when I was asked to read it to my young niece and nephew over and over and over (and over). A non-parent at the time, I found the task monotonous, but I didn't recognize any real danger in simply reading them a story. Oh how naive I was. I realized the error in my ways when my nephew somehow managed to smuggle a purple crayon one night in his diaper, into his crib. For those of you paying attention at home, yes, I know, purple, just like the crayon Harold uses. You can imagine the lighthearted delight (no, not really) his parents experienced the following morning when they saw the entire wall next to his crib had been colored, the teeny purple nub taunting them from inside the corner of the crib. He colored the whole wall with the crayon. The. Whole. Wall. 

Hey, I don't know you or the kind of household you keep, but in our house, as in my sister's, coloring on the walls is really F%#^ing bad. With that said, I was onto Harold and his bad behavior years before I became a mom myself. So much so that I found it to be a particularly passive aggressive, if not totally dubious move by my sister to make sure my daughter had her own copy of Harold and the Purple Crayon for her library from a very young age. No doubt payback for years of me buying drums, harmonicas, recorders and Furbys for her kids.

Do not be fooled by his cuteness. He is a BAD influence.

One possible cause of his bad behavior is that Harold, like many of the other characters featured on the CAC, lacks any parental or adult supervision. The book starts with Harold deciding to go for a walk in the moonlight. As a parent, I couldn't help but wonder, who lets this kid:

go for a walk alone in the moonlight? Sh!tty, non-existent parents, that's who. 
Parental guidance is also absent when he decides to climb a mountain wearing footie pajamas, of all things. 
Of course he fell off, he was climbing a mountain in footie pajamas!

Despite his lack of parents, or possibly because of it, Harold is totally mental. For those of you unfamiliar with the book, the walk he decides to go on includes taking a shortcut (alas there are no shortcuts in life, junior), boating (he's on a boat MF!!), having a pie-only picnic with an anorexic moose (or possibly bulimic, if it ended up eating all that pie),
and wandering through a big city, stopping only to ask for directions from this guy:

I'd wish I was anywhere but next to this guy... dude is tweaking.
The weird sh!t he encounters by way of his own drawing suggests that he's in some sort of drug or alcohol induced art session a la Van Gogh or Pollack. For example, the dragon protecting the apple tree:

He came up with that idea all on his own. It also looks like he has just recently gone through his bat-sh!t crazy shave your head like Britney phase. Harold, I hear your cry for help! You don't have to deface the walls anymore!

The story was written in 1955 by Crockett Johnson (insert reference to Don Johnson's Miami Vice character Crockett here). Nearly 60 years later, I assume that Harold most likely succumbed to his drug induced art sprees a long time ago. Basquiat only made it to 27. But the purple crayon is a very real threat facing our children today. Don't let your wall become the next victim. Only a fool would blame something other than Harold and his bad-exampling. I, dear friend, am no fool... except for when I use the phrase bad-exampling.

*I hate that we live in a world where not all people know to keep these things away from kids. I wish there was a way to keep kids away from those people, but alas, reproduction is not bound by intelligence or even common sense.

Bonus spin: I also have a mini takedown of the most frustrating book ever written called Please, Baby, Please by Spike Lee and his missus. Yup, shocking, a celebrity and his wife got to write a book despite their area of expertise having no direct link to the piece of sh!t book they produced. That book is arguably a what-not-to-do book, but good luck explaining to a 12-month old that the pictures actually show stuff I do not want her to do, not stuff I hope she will learn. She's a freaking baby. Seeing those pictures is the closest she can get to comprehending the message of the book. In her head, I just read her a book that said: please don't sleep, please dump your food on your head, please color on the walls (again! Argh!), please don't share, please eat sand, please throw a tantrum, please stick your tongue out and go plfffft, please splash in the bath, please take off your diaper and walk around with it in your hand, and please come try to get into bed with us at night. Thanks Spike! Please stick to watching the Knicks and leave our kids to come up with this sh!t on their own.


  1. Bravo! Trashing all my crayons right after posting this comment. You, madame, are a public service unto yourself.

    Thanks for being n the CAC!

    1. Nicole, thank you for having me! In addition to my duty as a mom to let everyone know the dangers within, it was truly my pleasure. Such an honor to be included with so many funny blogger/writers!

  2. Harold and Some Household Bleach
    I love the design on the cover of the book. I've never made it through the whole thing and your takedown was well deserved.
    Also, mad respect to anyone who inserts art history references in their post.

    1. Jean, I'm fist-bumping you with mutual mad respect.

  3. Fantastic and hilarious! At this point, I'm convinced every children's book is designed to destroy parents' will to live. I'll be sharing this all over the place. Sorta like graffiti.

    1. Thank you!! I totally agree about children's books slowly eating away at us, either through deceptively annoying messages or simply the tedium of reading them over and over and over. You spread this like a virus my friend. And thanks again for the scary-ass/amazing lead in.

  4. I just hope no one confuses the purple dildo with the purple crayon. What a disaster that would be!!! Great assassination!!

    1. Ha ha ha! That would be a disaster... and very hard to explain to the teachers ("She mentioned that her crayons at home vibrate?") Yikes.
      Thanks Teri!

  5. You had me at Harold and the Purple Dildo. Great post!

    1. Ha! It's amazing the praise one can get from a well-placed purple dildo. Thank you!

  6. That child does indeed have a sort of pervasive surprised yet somehow dead-in-the-eyes look... just like poor Britney. Hmm. Nice work writer!

  7. You are hilarious. The title of the post made me laugh out loud. I LOVE children's books... but I have never seen what the fuss is about this one.

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