Summer has done a number on our schedule. I used to think we would school year ’round so that we could take breaks when we needed them and have a more go-with-the-flow existence than a traditional school calendar allows, and while I haven’t given up on that plan altogether, I am already seeing that what I envision and what actually transpires in this exciting experiment of home education are surely two different things. Summer time just offers too many opportunities for us to be tied down at home every day.
I picked up The Carrot Seed several weeks ago as what will be our last Before Five in a Row selection of Lulu’s preschool. We will probably pick up the ones that we haven’t done as a part of Louise’s preschool this year and possibly revisit some old favorites, but I’m calling it done for this year with this book. We will begin with volume one of Five in a Row as a supplemental (read fun) part of Lulu’s kindergarten when we convene school in six weeks or so. (Why I make the distinction between Lulu’s and Louise’s preschool when there are only eighteen short months between their ages, I don’t know. It keeps me sane in this thinking about their schooling, I guess.)
With right at 100 words, The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss captures the anticipation and faith involved in growing carrots and believing in dreams. The little boy’s detractors are his family members, no less, but he continues steadfast in his belief that the little seed he deposited in the earth will grow, and he is rewarded with a wheel barrow sized harvest of one giant carrot. My girls love this simple little book. They love the chorus of “it won’t come up” repeated by the little boy’s mother, father, and brother. They love the triumphant ending in which the little boy wheels away his impossibly large carrot. The simple illustrations by Crockett Johnson are limited in color to mustard yellows and browns, with an occasional punch of red, orange, or green. We have enjoyed several other books that are thematically related to this book, so be sure to come back on Wednesday when I highlight those titles!
I picked up A Very Special House at the library without realizing it is also by Ruth Krauss. When I first began reading it to my girls, I thought to myself that this is the sort of old, nonsensical story that doesn’t translate well to modern readers. We kept on reading, though, and my girls, especially 3 1/2 year old Louise, LOVED it. (Of course, since then, she has informed me that she did NOT like this book. Hmph. Kids!) The illustrations in this quirky little book phrases are by Maurice Sendak and won the distinction of a Caldecott Honor in 1954.
All of this brings me to what is possibly my favorite picture book of all time: Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson. I’m pairing Ruth Krauss (author) and Crockett Johnson (author and illustrator) together because they were married! I kid you not. It’s amazing what you learn when you just do a little research, huh? I just love that I started highlighting a Before Five in a Row book and ended up writing about the genius that is Harold. If you experienced Harold and the Purple Crayon yet for yourself, you need to! The concept behind this book is amazing: a little boy named Harold creates his own world with his trusty purple crayon, all the while illustrating a clever story that is chock-full of word play. In a household where the second theings the girls do every morning is make something with paper, yarn, and glue (the first thing is the rallying cry of “Read a book!”), Harold and the Purple Crayon reminds me of the importance of creativity and imagination in children (and adults!). Our copy of Harold and the Purple Crayon is in a wonderful anthology of picture books that we own. I’m excited that Harold and the Purple Crayon is included in volume two of Five in a Row, which we should be ready for at least by next school year. I even found this little animated adaptation of this book that stays very close to the original. Harold and the Purple Crayon was published in 1955, and it illustrates the fact that simple, good art and childish imagination never go out of style.