Crockett Johnson was a New York cartoonist and children’s book creator best remembered for his classic 1950s books about Harold and the Purple Crayon. These deceptively simple stories follow a small snub nosed child in a romper suit around a blank background which he brings to life with line drawings from his ever present purple crayon.
In Harold at the North Pole our hero goes on a journey north in search of a Christmas tree. Along the way he creates all the conditions necessary for Santa Claus to bring presents down his yet to be drawn chimney.
Along the way Harold creates a snow storm and a downcast snowman.
He draws some reindeer, very much without red noses.
Until he finally gets his Christmas tree, with no need for a fairy on the top.
‘Harold is just immense fun; that’s all, just fun.’ Crockett’s friend, Maurice Sendak said. ‘But, also, Harold does exactly as he pleases. There are no adults to demonstrate or remonstrate. It comes out of the same theory: Let the kid do his own thing. Let him have fun. It’s fun. Not to teach; there are no lessons in “Harold.” You have fun, you do what you like and no one’s going to punish you. You’re just a kid.’
Sendak was discovered by Crockett Johnson’s wife Ruth Krauss in the early 1950s when he was a failing illustrator, dressing toy shop windows. The couple took him under their wing and ‘apprenticed’ Sendak, working together on many books. He talks in this fascinating interview about how ‘Ruth and Dave’ (Crockett) supported his creation of real, funny looking kids. And Johnson and Krauss played a key part in helping him develop perhaps the most revolutionary picture book of all, Where the Wild Things Are. Central to that book, and the Harold series, is the idea that a child is the very much the centre of his own world. And at no time of year is this more true than at Christmas.