Dr. Philip Nel’s newest work, Crockett Johnson and Ruth Krauss: How an Unlikely Couple Found Love, Dodged the FBI, and Transformed Children’s Literature, has been published by the University Press of Mississippi. This book is the culmination of years of work to bring to light the lives and times of the man who created Harold and the purple crayon and the woman who, with Maurice Sendak, created A Hole is to dig. Over the course of their marriage and collaborations, they created over 75 books and influenced some of the best in the business, including Chris van Allsburg who thanked Harold and his purple crayon in his Caldecott acceptance speech in 1981. Nel points out that while Krauss and Johnson were “never quite household names…Their circle of friends and acquaintances included some of the important cultural figures of the twentieth century” (pg.7) . This impeccably researched work which literally took Nel a decade to write, is arranged in 28 chapters, with extensive notes, bibliography, index and illustrations, some reprinted from published works and some from the three dozen archives he visited including the Northeast Children’s Literature Collection. In his epilogue, Nel writes, “Crockett Johnson shows us that a crayon can create a world, while Ruth Krauss demonstrates that dreams can be as large as a giant orange carrot. Whenever children and grown-ups seek books that invite them to think and to imagine, they need look no further than Johnson and Krauss. There, they will find a very special house, where holes are to dig, walls are a canvas, and people are artists, drawing paths that take them anywhere they want to go” (pg. 275).
Congratulations, Dr. Nel, on an exceptional work of scholarship.
Philip Nel, Crockett Johnson and Ruth Krauss (Jackson : University Press of Mississippi, 2012). ISBN 978-1-61703-624-8. EBook 978-1-61703-625-5.