Harper Wave Books: Unexpected Perspectives on Mind, Body, and Soul

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Purple Crayons

The Art of Drawing a Life

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About the Book

In this joyous and inventive rereading of the beloved children’s book Harold and the Purple Crayon, the author of How We Change (And Ten Reasons Why We Don’t) celebrates our inherent “sacred originality” and establishes a new framework for self-reliance.

In 1955, Crockett Johnson introduced one of the world’s most beloved and enduring young adventurers, Harold and his purple crayon. Today, we need Harold and his penchant for creative solutions more than ever. In Purple Crayons, Ross Ellenhorn looks to Johnson’s classic for insights and answers that can help us understand our current condition and point the way towards solutions for healing. Purple Crayons tells a story about America then and now, about living one’s life as art; about the powers that block us from doing so, about the pull and perils of conformity; about serious play and too much seriousness, about what it means to feel alive inside and what deadens our existence. It’s also about 1955 in America, all that lay before and—presciently—all that lay ahead, as each of us struggles to draw meaningful and resilient existences on the blank pages—the future yet unlived—of our lives.

This delightful, provocative adventure is a gift of kindness and love that encourages us and gives us hope. As he traces Harold’s journey, Ellenhorn offers insights into our “sacred originality”—the idea that each of our unique inner lives are worth nurturing and protecting, and the perseverance, courage, connection, and community necessary to sustain them. Engaging, thoughtful, wise—and illustrated throughout with drawings from the original Harold—Purple Crayons transcends the current divides separating us, reminding us that our fulfillment rests on tapping into what is original about ourselves, finding ways to express our originality, and understanding that doing so is rooted in who we are as Americans.

About the Authors

Ross Ellenhorn

Photo of Ross Ellenhorn

Ross Ellenhorn, PhD, is an eminent thought leader on innovative methods and programs aimed at helping individuals diagnosed with psychiatric and substance-use issues recover in their own communities, outside of hospital or residential settings. He is the founder, owner, and CEO of ellenhorn, the most robust community integration program in the United States, with offices in Boston, New York City, and Raleigh-Durham. Dr. Ellenhorn is also the cofounder and president of the Association for Community Integration Programs, and the founder of two lecture series that aim to shift current behavioral health paradigms. He gives talks and seminars throughout the country, and is an in-demand consultant to mental health agencies, psychiatric hospitals, and addiction programs in the United States and Europe. Dr. Ellenhorn is the first person to receive a joint PhD from Brandeis University’s Florence Heller School for Social Welfare Policy and Management and the Brandeis Department of Sociology.