A Title Is to Read

Harold, the Purple Crayon, and Barnes & Noble

In honor of what would have been Crockett Johnson‘s 105th birthday, I can exclusively reveal both the title of the book and the name of the winner of my Invent Title for My Book, win a Signed Copy of the Book contest.  Yesterday (Wednesday), my editor emailed the title that he and his colleagues liked best:

Crockett Johnson and Ruth Krauss: How an Unlikely Couple Found Love, Dodged the FBI, and Transformed Children’s Literature

So… that’ll be the title.  How did we arrive at this title?  Back in late August, Walter (my editor) wrote to me: “I talked to my colleagues about it, and most of them find the main title problematic. It’s lengthy and isn’t evocative to anyone who isn’t already familiar with Johnson or Krauss, and so doesn’t draw the lay reader into the text. What other possibilities are there?” I posed the question to all of you, and thanks to your generous suggestions, we had a lot to choose from.

Since he wanted something that might be evocative to someone not already familiar with Johnson and Krauss, I was most struck by these suggestions, which came from my colleague Dan Hoyt, via email:

The Lives of Crockett Johnson and Ruth Krauss: How One Couple Found Lefty Love, Dodged the FBI, and Re-Invented Children’s literature

The Lives of Crockett Johnson and Ruth Krauss: How One Couple Gave Birth to Harold, A Hole to Dig, a New Strain of Children’s Literature, and even a Purple Crayon

I liked the narrative impulse — each title tells a story that might pique your curiosity even if you’re not already familiar with the work of Johnson or Krauss.  So, inspired by those suggestions, I sent Walter the following (with the top one as my top choice):

Crockett Johnson and Ruth Krauss: How an Unlikely Couple Found Love, Dodged the FBI, and Changed the Future of Children’s Literature.

Crockett Johnson and Ruth Krauss: How an Unlikely Couple Found Love, Dodged the FBI, and Reinvented the Modern Picture Book.

Crockett Johnson and Ruth Krauss: How an Unlikely Couple Found Love, Dodged the FBI, and Re-imagined Children’s Literature.

Crockett Johnson and Ruth Krauss: How an Unlikely Couple Found Love, Dodged the FBI, and Transformed Children’s Literature.

As you can see, he and his colleagues chose the final one above.  As you might also notice, these are all rather long — and he was worried about length.  So, I also picked a few “runners-up.”

The first one comes from cartoonist Paul Karasik (via the blog):

…And The Purple Crayon: Crockett Johnson, Ruth Krauss, and the Reinvention of the Modern Picture Book

You’ll note that I borrowed “the Modern Picture Book” for one of the rejected titles above.  I liked this one.  I liked the suggestiveness of the ellipses.  Also, I liked the fact that beginning a title with ellipses is rather unusual.  Off the top of my head, I can think only of …And Ladies of the Club (though I’m sure there are others).

The second runner-up comes from Dean Jacoby (via Facebook):

Two Crayons, One Art: The Children’s Literature and Marriage of Crockett and Krauss

I liked what comes before the colon, but I’d have changed what comes after the colon.  Maybe borrow from Karasik‘s suggestion for the post-colon part.  For the record, a version of this was also nearly the winner.  Before his colleagues persuaded him to go for what became the winning title, Walter was leaning towards “Two Crayons, One Art: Crockett Johnson, Ruth Krauss, and the Reinvention of Children’s Literature” or “Two Crayons, One Art: A Biography of Crockett Johnson and Ruth Krauss.”

Since his suggestion came closet to the title that was ultimately chosen, our contest winner is Dan Hoyt.  Congratulations, Dan!  A profound THANK YOU to everyone who participated.  I really enjoyed reading your suggestions.  You helped me arrive at a solution to a problem that has remain unsolved for a decade — what to call the book?!?

I’ll conclude with a hearty happy birthday to Crockett Johnson!  This time next year, we can celebrate by reading his and Ruth Krauss’s biography… because it’ll be out!

2 Comments »

  1. Paul Karasik Said,

    October 25, 2011 @ 10:16 am

    “…Never A Bride: Paul Karasik’s Life Story”

    Congratulations on a very good tile for a very great project!

  2. Philip Nel Said,

    October 26, 2011 @ 2:11 pm

    Thanks! And thanks for your suggestion. (Also: yr life story’s title made me chuckle. Thanks for that!)

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