Harold and the Purple Crayon.

First edition of Crockett Johnson's Harold and the Purple Crayon; inscribed by Johnson to close friend and fellow Children's Book author and illustrator Maurice Sendak

Harold and the Purple Crayon.

JOHNSON, Crockett. [Maurice Sendak].


Item Number: 135433

New York: Harper & Brothers, 1955.

First edition, first issue of the first book in Crockett Johnson’s charming Harold series, first issue with “30-60” and “No. 5671A” to the front flap of the dust jacket. 12 mo, original cloth, illustrated. Association copy, inscribed by the author on the front free endpaper to fellow children’s book author and illustrator Maurice Sendak, “To Maury, with fond regards, Crockett Johnson.” The recipient, Maurice Sendak, is best known for his immensely popular illustrated children’s book, Where the Wild Things Are, which was awarded the Caldecott Medal in 1964 and gained him international fame. Sendak, Johnson, and Johnson’s wife Ruth Krauss were introduced by Harper & Row publisher and editor-in-chief of juvenile books Ursula Nordstrom in 1952. Nordstrom facilitated the partnership of Krauss and Sendak as author and illustrator of Krauss’ A Hole Is to Dig (1952), which launched Sendak’s career and was published 3 years before Harold and the Purple Crayon. Sendak would go on to illustrate seven additional Krauss titles, and their collaborations became something of a cultural phenomenon, spawning a host of imitators of their “unruly” and “rebellious” child protagonists. These “good books for bad children” became Nordstrom’s trademark, who disliked the genteel, sentimental tone of earlier American children’s literature and sought to change its purpose to appeal to children’s imaginations and emotions, rather than serve as adult-approved morality tales. In addition to Harold and the Purple Crayon (1955) and Where the Wild Things Are (1963), Nordstrom edited and published numerous milestones of children’s literature, including E. B. White’s Stuart Little (1945) and Charlotte’s Web (1952), Margaret Wise Brown’s Goodnight Moon (1947), Louise Fitzhugh’s Harriet the Spy (1964), and Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree (1964). Near fine in a near fine dust jacket. An exceptional association.

Crockett Johnson— the pen name for David Johnson Liesk—was “a cartoonist whose simplest, sparest and boldest outlines produced unforgettable, gently humorous and always endearing caricatures… His natural gift for drawing and writing from a young child’s viewpoint enabled him to craft more than 20 juvenile books,” including this, his most popular one. “With the fewest of lines, Johnson depicts Harold as a toddler clad in sleepers, his chubby hand gripping a fat plum-colored crayon. From page to page, the thick, firm, purple mark delineates Harold’s actions against the stark white background so effectively and ingeniously that the crayon is as much a character as Harold. The same economy that informs Johnson’s art permeates his text; he writes so concisely of Harold’s moonlight stroll that his style perfectly echoes the clarity of his boldly outlined cartoon illustrations” (Silvey, 355).

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