Growing Reader

Books for Fans of Harold and the Purple Crayon

by Lindsay Barrett

When I taught kindergarten, my class excitedly welcomed a guest reader every Friday morning. The element of surprise — what book would the visitor bring? — always elevated each title. When a father brought Crockett Johnson’s Harold and the Purple Crayon to share on his son’s birthday, the enthusiasm was contagious: “I have this book!” “Oh, I love this one!” “I read this book in preschool!”

What makes this classic title so appealing? Is it the peaceful, meandering plot? The charming celebration of possibility? The reassuring conclusion? The adorably creative Harold himself? Probably all of the above. If you’re delighted by Harold and the Purple Crayon each time you revisit it, here are seven titles we think you’ll enjoy just as much.

  • This is Sadie

    by Sara O’Leary, illustrated by Julie Morstad

    Whereas Harold starts his imaginary journey at bedtime, Sadie gets up before the sun to begin conjuring her imaginary worlds — quietly, because “old people need a lot of sleep.” She wishes for more hours in the day because there’s so much she wants to play. As Harold makes readers want to grab a crayon and sketch a tale, this ode to the power of story will leave children searching out the nearest cardboard box to turn into just the right prop for their next adventure.

  • The Squiggle

    by Carole Lexa Schaefer, illustrated by Pierr Morgan

    Just like Harold, the young girl in this simple and engaging story knows that a line is an invitation to imagine how the space it defines might be filled. When she finds a squiggly piece of red string while on a walk with her class, her mind’s eye brims with possibilities. It’s a dancing dragon, tightrope for a circus acrobat, the burst of fireworks, and more. What will your squiggle be?

  • Windows

    by Julia Denos

    A young boy takes his dog for a walk at dusk, just as the lights of the neighborhood are being switched on, illuminating evening rituals in every passing window. With quiet reverence, each detail receives careful attention, until, just like Harold, the boy returns home to cozily end his day.

  • Journey

    by Aaron Becker

    This wordless portrayal of a young girl’s epic escape from boredom begins when she uses a red crayon to draw a door — a door so inviting, she steps right through it. As her journey unfolds, she uses her red crayon to outline a boat, hot air balloon, magic carpet, and more. In a departure from the solitary tradition of Harold — but no less worthy of a satisfied sigh — the tale ends with the girl finding an equally imaginative friend.

  • When Sadness is at Your Door

    by Eva Eland

    Sparse but meaningful sketches portray Sadness as an unexpected visitor in a child’s life. The reassuring text takes readers on the child’s coping journey, from acknowledgment to acceptance to Sadness’s eventual departure. With Harold’s gentleness, this title takes on the important task of helping children navigate a universal emotion.

  • Time Out!

    by Ale Barba

    A young pig is sent to his room after being too wild in the house. His time-out is anything but lonely, though, as he draws his own adventure and jumps right in. This simple story is a testament to the restorative power of imagination.

  • City Moon

    by Rachael Cole, illustrated by Blanca Gomez

    Harold’s internal monologue is one of the qualities that makes him so endearing, and the conversations between the child in this story and his mother have a similar effect. It’s with unabashed exuberance that the boy spots the moon on an evening walk, encapsulating the magic in bundling up for a special trip after dark.