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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Purple (11/05/09)

TITLE: Autonomy
By Marie Fink


A college professor instilled the love of children’s literature in me. She forced me to think about it, learn the famous authors and illustrators, memorize award winning book titles, and know the difference between what it means to be a “Newberry” or “Caldecott” winner. She also required a lengthy research paper on my favorite author. (I chose Maurice Sendak as an author and an illustrator, but believe it or not, this piece is not about him.) The terminology was new to me, but some of the titles were vaguely familiar because of reading them as a child or running across them in the school library.

I’ve been interested in children’s books ever since then, mostly in what is considered the ‘classical’ genre. This ‘classical’ is in the sense that a book, and often its art, will withstand the test of time and be beloved for decades and centuries. Sometimes this means we will not know a true classical piece during our lifetime.

One children’s book that seems to be standing up to the test of time is, "Harold and the Purple Crayon". This book, by Crockett Johnson, was first written in 1955 with six subsequent stories written over the next 8 years, and there was even a Home Box Office (HBO) series produced of the same title in 2002. When a book holds the attention of generations, we sometimes find ourselves asking, ‘Why does this book appeal to us so much?’ The writing style is simple and so is the artwork, almost as if a four year old could have drawn the pictures.

In the case of Harold and his purple crayon the answer to the fascination is simple. Whenever this preschooler encounters a difficulty or an obstacle he simply draws his way out of the situation. With his beloved treasure this crafty little boy has the power to create a world of his own. There is no petition to a higher authority. Harold is his own creator. He always has a solution, and everything ends up neat and tidy. He handles and performs everything by himself. For such a young one he is quite autonomous, thus, the appeal.

We all can relate to this clever character. That much autonomy in our daily lives would be wonderful. We want our purple crayon to lead us to the answers through our many situations. As far back as in the Garden of Eden, man has been very interested in his own rule. The serpent lies to Adam and Eve and tells them that they can know of the knowledge of good and evil and surely would never die. They see this as their opportunity to be their own god. They wouldn’t need to rely on anyone but themselves. And somehow they believe this ridiculous lie because it is so enticing.

This very enticement is what gets so many great men and women into trouble. The Israelites wandered in the desert for forty years because they wanted their own way rather than God’s better way. King David suffered grave penalties that could have been avoided by obedience rather than acquiring what he thought he wanted. In the end this brought death and destruction rather than fulfillment. In the parable of the prodigal son, the wayward son wants riches and every allurement for pleasure, and he comes to great ruin. They all learned lessons of disobedience, consequences, repentance, and renewal time and again.

Harold and his purple crayon remind us of what we sometimes think we miss: total charge over our own destinies. In reality, we are much happier when God is in control of our lives. God creates parameters so that we are safe, consequently and ultimately, happy. This comes from serving the God who is in complete control of the universe and everything in it, even our daily lives.

God’s ways are the only things that will truly withstand the test of time in all eternity. We would do well to follow him rather than our own devices. Meanwhile, we can still enjoy "Harold and the Purple Crayon" for what it really is: a great piece of children’s literature that is fun to read aloud and sends our imaginations on adventures with our children or grandchildren.

The opinions expressed by authors may not necessarily reflect the opinion of FaithWriters.com.
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Member Comments
Member Date
Laury Hubrich 11/13/09
Literature is a great way to get away and make us think. You had lots to this entry. Maybe next time you can narrow it down and get more into your subject.
Barbara Lynn Culler11/14/09
Interesting story that reminded me of the time when as a girl scout, I was on a scavenger hunt. Going door to door, requesting certain items, we came upon a man who appeared drunk. I asked him for a purple crayon. He said in a slurred voice " We don't allow purple crayons here"