After reading the 2014 Caldecott Honor Book, Journey, about a bored girl who creates a daring and dangerous adventure for herself using a red crayon, I was reminded of a far simpler version about a footed pajama-wearing, pointy-nosed, wide-eyed, almost hairless little graffiti artist named Harold.
Harold and the Purple Crayon, by Crockett Johnson, has timeless appeal, as he wields his one and only crayon to both create and solve one problem after another, until he draws himself to bed, and the crayon slips from his sleepy hand to the floor.
I enlarged a b&w picture of Harold from the book, and copied him in various random positions all around 12 X 18″ pieces of white construction paper, and set out purple crayons.
I read the book to students, then after book checkout, they were able to sit down at the tables and create a picture of Harold drawing an adventure of their own choosing. After seeing Harold’s imagination run wild with his purple crayon on the pages of the book, the students were excited to let their own imaginations take Harold someplace too.
But don’t forget the moon. The moon always followed along.
Tag on the back:
Today we went to the library and Mrs. Foote read Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson
Mo Willems. Need I say more? There isn’t a kid alive who doesn’t love the sense of humor of this three-time Caldecott Honor winning author and illustrator. That is NOT a Good Idea! is my new favorite book by Willems, thanks to a wonderful kindergarten teacher who shared her copy with me last year.
In the illustrative style of an old silent film, the hungry wolf proceeds to lure the sweet, demure mother duck for, er, to dinner. The students wanted so badly to warn the mother duck that her choices were NOT NOT NOT a good idea! She just kept right along making obviously bad choices, page after page, to the increasingly frantic warnings from her ducklings, and Willems shamelessly leads us all to believe she is going to meet an awful end. Spoiler alert: It turns out, the sneaky wolf is actually the one making all the wrong choices. Nail-biting anticipation culminates in a thigh-slapping, surprise ending that makes one want to go back and read it again, to see how one could have missed the signs. Feel free to give in to the urge to do this. It’s a quick read.
The adorable ducklings are so easy and fun to draw, using a guided drawing technique. I explained that everyone is going to stay together for the entire drawing, and that it will be very hard not to go on ahead, but please wait for me to show how to add each new part.
This drawing is so simple, I apologize for insulting you by including the steps below. You can go in whatever order suits you. I demonstrated on a big yellow sheet, as I walked the students through it.
I only set out the colors of crayon that I wanted used. Personal expression is for another day, and another project. I wanted these to all turn out looking like the ducklings in the book, no pink eyelashes or purple dresses added. Call me a control freak. I don’t think you can give a kid a tray full of colorful crayons and expect them not to use them all, so I often sift through the crayon bin and pull out only approved colors. (Go see my post for Harold and the Purple Crayon, if you don’t believe me.)
Supplies: Yellow construction paper, black crayons, orange crayons, blue crayons
1) Draw an oval.
2) Draw two legs.
3) Add wings.
4) Add two little motion lines near his wings.
5) Draw two dots for eyes, and add some eyebrows.
6) Give him a tail.
7) Draw three loops on top of his head.
8) And now, the only tricky part–the mouth: Draw two small horizontal ovals, and connect them with two black lines. Fill in the middle area with black crayon. Fill in the upper and lower beak with orange crayon.
Then kids can add their own personalization, like the ducklings in the book, by adding a hat, a bow tie, or a clinging eggshell. Many went on to add more ducklings on the front and the back. Most students can’t draw just one. They’re just that fun to draw!
I think every one of those students can imagine themselves illustrating a children’s picture book now.
This storytime practically does itself. The classic tale of Harry the Dirty Dog, by Gene Zion, published in 1956, is just as appealing to kids today as it was then. What child can’t relate to not wanting to take a bath, and going to great lengths to avoid it? Harry’s antics are illustrated by Margaret Bloy Graham, and their simplicity lends itself perfectly to this successful project.
Supplies: Black construction paper, white construction paper, black Crayons, white crayons.
Prep: I cut out 4 shapes at a time, using a pattern made from photocopying the book cover.
Set up: Each student chose a place setting at the table with either a black or a white dog, and the opposite color crayon, and could make them as dirty or clean as they wanted.
All of the classes made a small Harry, which can be used as a bookmark, but I asked one class to also make a large Harry that I could keep and display on a bulletin board, and they were happy to oblige. It generated some conversations, as students, parents and teachers walked through the library.
“Can our class make those too?” (No, sorry, you’re in 5th grade, and I won’t be doing this with your class, but you are welcome to come back at recess and make yourself one.)
“Oh! I grew up reading Harry the Dirty Dog!”
Sometimes, it’s just nice to have a storytime with no glue to scrub off the table, and no paper cuttings on the floor to pick up.
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Have I mentioned I always put a tag on the back of anything we make in the library? I learned this technique during an art docent training years ago. The trainer told us to always put a note on the back of any artwork done by the students, so that parents can read what they’ve done, and it can be a conversation starter. Otherwise it can just get lost in the jumble of backpack detritus. It’s also an effort at library promotion — I would like parents to have the opportunity to see that their students are doing something fun and engaging in the school library. The parents are on the PTA board, the PTA pays for part of my salary, and the PTA is the sole source of the library book and supply budget. It’s just my way of communicating, “Here’s what your children are getting for your generous contribution.”
I use an Avery label template, 30 per page, but I use regular printer paper, cut it out and glue it on the back with glue sticks, because it’s less expensive. Sometimes, I can give the job to some upper graders who are happy to help at recess.