Review: Journey by Aaron Becker

Title: Journey
Author: Aaron Becker
Publication Date: August 6th, 2013
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Genre: Children's
Pages: 40
Source: B&N
Awards: Caldecott Honor 2014


Synopsis (from Goodreads): 
Follow a girl on an elaborate flight of fancy in a wondrously illustrated, wordless picture book about self-determination — and unexpected friendship.

A lonely girl draws a magic door on her bedroom wall and through it escapes into a world where wonder, adventure, and danger abound. Red marker in hand, she creates a boat, a balloon, and a flying carpet that carry her on a spectacular journey toward an uncertain destiny. When she is captured by a sinister emperor, only an act of tremendous courage and kindness can set her free. Can it also lead her home and to her heart’s desire? With supple line, luminous color, and nimble flights of fancy, author-illustrator Aaron Becker launches an ordinary child on an extraordinary journey toward her greatest and most exciting adventure of all.


Like many American boys born in the wake of the Apollo missions, I decided early on I would be an astronaut. My mother was an astronomy teacher at a local college in my hometown of Baltimore. She would take us along on her nighttime fieldtrips to the observatory; its musky smell relieved with the opening of its domed roof. The vastness of the starry sky was thrilling. Below, above, to the right and left – nothing but infinite space.
At some point, I surmised that a career in actual space travel required military training, and this seemed like a lot of work. So I switched gears and started drawing pictures of outer space instead. There was palpable joy in this: creating civilizations and stories filled with a cast of characters of my own design. To be sure, these worlds were reflections of places inside of me. But more importantly, drawing was an immediate path for creating something I could manage on my own terms. These worlds were mine and mine alone. With a pad of paper and a set of markers, I could pretty much do whatever I wanted. For an eight year old confined by the limitations of his material existence, this seemed like a pretty good deal.
Years ago, after working as a designer in San Francisco’s dot-com craze, I quit my job and headed to Monterey, California for a children’s book conference. At the time, I had a vague idea of why I thought it’d be fun to write and illustrate books. After presenting some hazy ideas to a guest editor from Candlewick Press, I left the conference content to wander. I traveled. I returned to art school and earned my chops. I worked in the Bay Area with some of my heroes in film design for nearly a decade. But eventually, the children’s book bug returned. This time, I had some real drawing skills and a much greater understanding of why these books might matter. After all, I had my own child by this time, and it was becoming clear to me that there’s no purer form of story-telling for an illustrator than creating their own book full of pictures. Luckily, children seem to like this kind of stuff. And publishers will go along with it as well if the idea is up to snuff. When my agent gave me the good news that my first book had a solid offer, the name of the editor sounded eerily familiar. It was none other than the same editor I’d met in Monterey nearly fifteen years before.

I now live in Amherst, Massachusetts where every day, I return to that place of being a kid again, ready to fly into outer space with a ship of my own design. I’m fortunate to have a job that lets me keep doing this, and I would imagine that even in the darkest of my creative slumps, surely this must beat astronaut boot camp.

        There is much to say about an author who can create a story without writing down a single word. Paying homage to Harold and the Purple Crayon, Journey is about a young girl who uses a red marker to create a door that convoys her into a magical land as an escape from her otherwise dysfunctional (and colorless) family dynamic. 

Aaron Becker creates a scintillating story through this wordless picture book. I think the colors and illustrations delightfully engaging and give a clear picture of where the story is headed. The first thing I often look at in a kid's book is either the illustrations or a catchy title. The cover of this book is extravagant, and I've considered purchasing the signed gicleĆ© of the castle on his website. It's just stunning! But also be sure to take a look at that tree house; I wouldn't mind having that in my back yard!

   As for application, this book could be used in a few ways. Although Becker provides the general storyline, it can still be left to interpretation. This is a great tool to use either in the classroom or at home. In the classroom, you could ask kids questions about the main character's feelings or decisions. You can even allow them to render what the story is telling them on their own. If you're at home, you can change the story every time so there is always something new to experience.

In my opinion, this is not just a great book, but a great educational tool for classrooms and families alike!

Please enjoy this video, The Making of "Journey"

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