Journey by Aaron Becker

  • JourneyTitle: Journey
  • Author: Aaron Becker
  • Publisher: Candlewick Press
  • Year Published: 2013
  • ISBN: 0763660531
  • List Price: $15.99
  • Page Count: 40
  • Age Range: 4-8 yrs
  • Genre: fantasy
  • Award(s): Caldecott Honor Book, Goodreads Choice Award, Amazon’s Best Children’s Books of 2013, Junior Library Guild Selection, 2013 New York Times Best Illustrated

Author information: Journey is Aaron Becker’s first book. His website can be found here. The website includes a charming and visually impressive trailer for Journey, as well as a short documentary about the making of the book. The site also includes Becker’s blog, print shop, a short bio, and a list of upcoming author events. The publisher, Candlewick Press, has a short interview with Aaron Becker that is available here, which discusses his creative process with Journey and the effect the book’s creation has had on him.

Reviews: Several reviews for Journey, including those from School Library Journal and Booklist, can be found on Amazon’s website for the title here. The Publisher’s Weekly review for the book can be found on their site, and the New York Times featured a short review that can be found here. Reviews were overwhelmingly positive and highlight the  captivating artistry and entertaining story that Journey presents.

Readers annotation: Escape the ordinary and go on a magical journey with the help of a little imagination.

Summary: The unnamed heroine of Aaron Becker’s Journey wants somebody to play with, but her family is too preoccupied to spend time with her. Using her imagination and a red crayon, the heroine draws a doorway that leads to another world, which she begins to explore. As she is on her adventures, she witnesses the capture of a beautiful purple bird and sets it free, getting trapped in the process. The bird then comes to her rescue and leads her away, back to the real world and a young boy who is also looking for a friend.

Evaluation: This wordless story exceeded my expectations with its ability to create a fully realized heroine and a compelling narrative without using any language. Becker celebrates the imagination of youth through gorgeous watercolor illustrations that absorbed my attention and made me slow down my reading so that I could appreciate the level of detail that was on each page. Becker also managed to make a thought-provoking point about the use of technology in our daily lives and how it can dull our experiences by portraying the heroine’s family members in sepia tones, highly focused on their technology. The vibrancy of the heroine’s red crayon drawings juxtaposed with the soft watercolors made the story pop, and the ending, where the heroine meets a friend with an imagination as colorful as her own, is highly satisfying. The Caldecott Honor is an appropriate award for this title given the rich illustrations and the enthralling world that Becker creates.

Rating and appeal factors:

  • Quality: 5/5  This book is beautifully executed, vividly detailed, and a visual joy.
  • Popularity: 4/5  Some readers may not be captivated by pictures alone and prefer books that have language narration. These readers may not appreciate the subtleties of the artwork and may flip through it quickly. However, those readers who do enjoy visual narration will love this book.
  • Appeal factors: Beautiful artwork, a lack of narration allows the reader to use his/her imagination to create the story, multiple reads of the book allow the reader to discover new details in the artwork, highlights important and universal themes such as friendship and the importance of imagination.

Read-alikes: 

  1. Many readers and reviewers have compared this book to Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson. This book follows the young protagonist, Harold, as he uses his imagination to create an exciting world. The age range for this title is slightly younger (3-7), but fans of the theme of the power of imagination will enjoy this classic.
  2. Readers who loved the wordless storytelling of Journey may also like the works of David Wiesner, particularly Sector 7 and Free Fall. Both books rely on powerful and detailed illustrations to tell stories about imagination, far-away lands, and friendship.

Book talk ideas: Journey begins when a child feels that she has nobody to play with and her family is ignoring her. Ask children about a time when they wanted to play but nobody else did, and ask them what they did in that situation, comparing their choices to what the heroine of the book does. Focus on the visual aspects of the storytelling, perhaps by incorporating a craft where children get to draw their own fantasy worlds or get to tell a story using only pictures. Another idea would be to emphasize that Journey is about imagination by choosing a particular page in the book and engage children about what they notice is going on in the scene and have them make up a story about what is happening.

Discussion questions/ideas:

  • Why is the “real” world in the story sepia-toned but the fantasy land is full of color?
  • What does this book suggest about using your imagination?
  • What would you draw if you had a magic crayon?

Reason for reading: The library I work at, the Mill Valley Public Library, always has great displays that catch my attention. Weeks before the Caldecott books were named, I saw Journey on display and was immediately taken in by the visually stunning cover. The cover image, of a small girl in a bright red boat offset by a castle looming in the distance, immediately intrigued me and made me want to read more. Although I didn’t snatch it up that day, when I saw it had been named a Caldecott Honor book I knew I had to check it out, and was even more captivated by the book when I discovered there was no written narrative. I’m very pleased that I chose to read this book.

Additional relevant information: I was surprised to learn that this was a debut novel, because Becker’s execution and style are so mature. After doing a bit more research, I discovered that he has worked on films, which explains the highly cinematic quality of Journey.

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One thought on “Journey by Aaron Becker

  1. Pingback: The Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney | Award-Winning Youth Literature

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