by Judy Newman with Alexie Basil
I have never been a light packer. Or a carefree traveler.
I am not as much of a nervous (let’s call it terrified!) flier as I used to be. But still: the thought of taking a flight out of Newark Airport on an unnamed, often-exasperating airline does raise my anxiety level and lower my ability to get a good night’s sleep before departure.
I like to be prepared for every eventuality. I am always the person carrying the oversize bag (read: bags) filled with the extra Band-Aid or socks or dog treat or sore throat lozenge or flashlight or…all kinds of other seemingly random items.
When I’m with people, though, I do think I have a knack for anticipating what they will need in assorted unpredictable situations.
I used to think I always carried a Mary Poppins–type carpetbag filled with everything I thought anyone might need because (1) of how much I loved Mary herself, and (2) I got so stressed out watching the end of Let’s Make a Deal when Monty Hall would ask audience members for random items in exchange for large cash prizes that I never wanted to be that person who came up short.
In the course of writing last week’s Life of a Reader post, I came across two photos of me under age three. There I was, already schlepping large bags—long before Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke stole my heart or before Let’s Make a Deal was on the air. So I guess I was born a bag carrier.
In my high school years, I would go out with my friends for an evening-with-a-curfew (i.e., no chance of the outing extending past a hard stop) and still I would bring a change of clothes, a book, and assorted paraphernalia.
When my kids were born, I filled their diaper bags with all the stuff you’d think babies need. This took my overpacking to a whole new level.
On our family vacations—no matter how long a distance we traveled or how close we were to civilization (and accessible shopping!)—I never wanted to be caught short. My packing lists were so long that my suitcases always had to be checked, and even then, they were often overweight, requiring me to pay ridiculous excess baggage fees and retrieve them from some special secluded oversize baggage area when we landed.
All this overpacking resulted in wasted time and money, but I couldn’t shake the need to have everything with me to feel prepared at all costs.
Because these large bags have played such a prominent—and often disruptive—role in our family life, my husband, Jeff, anthropomorphizes them. They have not-too-affectionate names:
Like any self-respecting book-publishing person—and like many teachers—I also have a large and varied collection of tote bags. Even in these days of laptops and digital files and e-books, I still fill my tote bag every night with books and papers and “stuff” before I head home from work. Most nights, I wildly overestimate the amount of time I will have between the end of one workday and the beginning of another to review everything I carry home. But I never recalibrate and lessen my load because I just never know when I’ll need something in one of my bags.
Tote bags are wardrobe staples for most teachers, so each year for teacher conferences around the country, we create a special Scholastic Book Clubs tote bag to give away to teachers at our Scholastic booth. It is so much fun to see a conference full of teachers carrying our new Scholastic tote.
Today I still always carry lots of bags around. While my close friends and family (sort of) enjoy being the beneficiaries of my preparedness, they also really do not relish the sense of obligation to be chivalrous and help me carry my bags.
I don’t know what this all means about my psychology. I do know that it is in my personality to want to take care of the needs of others.
I get such a sense of satisfaction when I can help someone out and hand them a lozenge when they can’t stop coughing during a wedding service; or give someone extra unused headphones (or a book!) for their cranky child on a flight; or have a Band-Aid and Neosporin right on hand if someone cuts themselves. I like to take everyone’s potential special needs—big and small—into consideration as I go through my day.
But there is a part of me that would love to be a little more like Harold—the star of Crockett Johnson’s beloved picture book Harold and the Purple Crayon—and adopt his approach to life.
Harold is master of his own destiny. He just thinks things over one night, decides to go for a walk in the moonlight, and makes it happen.
“Do we look at art to learn things, or to feel things? I’d vote for feeling, and that’s why the art book I most recommend is Harold and the Purple Crayon.” —The New York Times Book Review
Harold and the Purple Crayon is a beloved classic, and we are thrilled to share it with you and your students as our Dollar Deal this week.
In the story, a little boy named Harold uses a special purple crayon to create his own world. It was originally published in 1955 and has since been adapted into many different media—film, television, onstage as a musical, and even an interactive iPad book.
When I reread Crockett Johnson’s simply brilliant timeless picture book, I wanted to shed all my bags and preparedness for one purple crayon.
I asked my friend and colleague David Vozar what he thought of Harold and the Purple Crayon, and this is what he told me:
“I always drew a lot as a child. I would take out my drawing pads and pencils and sit down and just play. Each line led to another, and soon I was imagining new worlds, new people, and new creatures.
“When I went to school, drawing pads were not always available, so I started drawing on whatever was around. Any boredom could easily be vanquished by a few well-placed lines that would transport me out of my day and into the world of imagination.
“Even now, as an adult, you will find these drawings on everything from napkins to paper cups. I believe it is that constant sense of play that has helped me keep my creative energy flowing.”
The blog team was super excited to dive into Harold’s world this week: the Book Boys draw themselves back into NYC; PreK teacher Katie Fadden shares how she uses the story in her classroom in Book Talks; we explore the fascinating life of Crockett Johnson in Behind the Scenes; and we launch a Harold-inspired contest in Cooked Up from a Book!
We hope Harold and the Purple Crayon encourages you and your students to dream up all sorts of adventures…and, maybe, try to pack just a little lighter.
This Book Is Available from Scholastic Book Clubs