Harold Around the World

Harold and the Purple Crayon in ten different languages

Crockett Johnson, Harold and the Purple Crayon (1955): coverFor Crockett Johnson‘s 108th birthday, it’s… Harold around the world! Whether you know him as Valtteri, Paultje, Pelle, Tullemand, Harold, or something else, you can read about his adventures in at least 14 languages. I have copies of Harold and the Purple Crayon in nine languages (Chinese, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, Hebrew, Italian, Spanish, and its original English) and have found some additional covers in other languages (German, Polish, Swedish) on-line.

So, grab your crayon, draw up a chair, and take a look at the many versions of Harold!


The book is available in at least two versions in Chinese. Here’s the one published by Hsinex International Corporation in 1987. On the cover, Harold’s skin tone is a darker shade of tan than it is inside the book (where it is the same light tan color that it is in the English-language edition).

Harold and the Purple Crayon (Chinese edition, 1987)

And here’s the one published by Jieli Publishing House in 2004. This publisher also translated the other six Harold books – including Harold’s ABC, which must be strange to read. The letters are in English, and the items they name are English words, but all the print narrative is in Chinese – followed by a parenthetical mention of the English word named by the letter.

Harold and the Purple Crayon (Chinese edition, 2004)


Tullemand!  Translated by Bibi & Thomas Winding. Published by Gylendal.

Harold and the Purple Crayon (Danish edition, 2000)

(For this copy, my thanks to Stewart Edelstein, Executor of Ruth Krauss’s Estate.)


For the Dutch edition, one of the Netherlands’ greatest children’s writers did the translation: Annie M.G. Schmidt, author of Jip and Janneke, Tow-Truck Pluck, and many others (most of which have not been translated into English). Published by Lemniscaat.

Harold and the Purple Crayon (Dutch edition, 2011)


Translated by Riitta Oittinen. Published by Pieni Karhu (Little Bear).

Harold and the Purple Crayon (Finnish edition, 1999)

(Thanks to Leena Reiman, who sent me this copy back in 1999 – during the earliest days of my Crockett Johnson Homepage.)


In French, Harold’s crayon is pink. Translated from the American by Anne-Laure Fournier le Ray. (Really – from the American, not from the English. “Traduit de l’américain par Anne-Laure Fournier le Ray.”)

Harold and the Purple Crayon (French edition, 2001)

In the latest French edition (same translator), Harold’s crayon is now violet.

Harold and the Purple Crayon (French edition, 2013)


According to GoogleTranslate, this German title translates to “I’m making my own world.” I don’t have a copy of this, but if I remember correctly (I’ve seen a copy with those of Johnson’s papers housed with Ruth Krauss’s), the crayon is red in this edition.

Harold and the Purple Crayon (German edition)

There’s a new German edition, which (mostly) retains Johnson’s title: “Zauberkreide” is “magic chalk,” which makes this much closer to Harold and the Purple Crayon than the above version.

Harold and the Purple Crayon (current German edition)


Note that the binding is on the right side here. The pages are all mirror images of the English-language version.

Harold and the Purple Crayon (Hebrew edition)


Translated by Giulio Lughi. Published by Einaudi Ragazzi. Contains both Harold and the Purple Crayon and Harold’s Trip to the Sky.

Harold and the Purple Crayon (Italian edition, 2000)


Translated by Tomasz ZajÄ…c. Published by Media Rodzina.

Harold and the Purple Crayon (Polish edition)


Translated by Teresa Mlawer. Published by HarperCollins.

Harold and the Purple Crayon (Spanish edition, 1995)


The 1958 edition – specifically, Ole Könnecke‘s childhood copy. Note that Harold’s crayon is also red here. As Könnecke explains, “‘Och den röda kritan’ means ‘And the red crayon.'” Yet, he adds, “when I added a belt to Harold’s pyjama, I used a purple crayon.”

Harold and the Purple Crayon (Swedish edition, 1958)

(Thanks to Mr. Könnecke for sharing this! Incidentally, if you’ve not read his children’s books, start with Anton Can Do Magic.)

The current edition, translated by Eva Håkansson.

Harold and the Purple Crayon (Swedish edition)

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  1. Reply

    Thanks for sharing these. I find it interesting that some changed the crayon to red, and some altered the cover entirely, but to change the title was a bit of madness! I suppose, at least at the time, people could not imagine the extent of communication today, which in turn makes me a little sad – looking back in another 50 years, books that ‘go viral’ today may provide less to ponder.

  2. Reply

    Glad you both enjoyed the post! I aspire, someday, to own copies of Harold and the Purple Crayon in all available languages. But it’s something of a vague aspiration. When I was in Amsterdam in 2013, I saw Paultje en het paarse krijtje in a bookshop, and (of course!) bought it. If I were more focused on collecting, I’d take advantage of the relative ease with which we can now buy books from abroad (thanks, internet!), and seek copies of – for instance – the Polish, German, Swedish, and new French editions. I would assume that there’s a Japanese edition out there somewhere, too….

  3. Emily Petermann


    What fun to compare all these editions, thanks for the post! A slight correction, though – the newer German edition you post doesn’t retain the original title, but modifies it (though it’s closer than the other German version, which you translate accurately): “Zauberkreide” translates as “magic chalk.”

  4. Reply

    Thanks, Emily. I actually did run “Zauberkreide” through GoogleTranslate, and then decided that “magic chalk” was close enough to “purple crayon.” You’re right, though. It is subtly different. I’ll modify my description, above.

  5. Uri Cohen


    Thanks for this. I see that the Hebrew edition Hebraized the name from Harold to Aharon. Instead of using a Hebrew name that starts with the letter “Hay” to be the equivalent of an English name starting with the letter “H,” the translator used Aharon (=Aaron, the brother of Moshe=Moses), a name which preserves the “haro” of Harold. Clever!

  6. Phyllis Ross


    My son loved this book when he was a child in Israel. Now I’m buying the book in Hebrew for his grandson…my great-grandson!

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