Journey by Aaron Becker is a wordless picture book that was recently awarded a Caldecott honor and has been nominated for a Cybils Award in the picture fiction category. All of these accolades (and then some!) are deserved. Although I usually say I am not a fan of wordless picture books, I’ve about decided I need to quit saying that because I’ve read several that I’ve enjoyed. This one communicates the story so well that I “read” it aloud to my children with no problem at all.
Journey is the story of a little girl who is lonely–everyone in her family is too busy to play with her, so she picks up a magic red crayon from her bedroom floor and draws a door in the wall that leads her into a magical world. She uses the crayon to draw various conveyances that take her into different worlds or settings: a red boat, a red hot air balloon, a red flying carpet. Several settings look a teeny bit like real places in the real world: a huge castle with canals for roadways; a Middle Eastern city. Others are fantastical. The common thread from setting to setting is the little girl and her red crayon. The story ends very pleasingly with the little girl being led through a purple doorway back into her world. There she finds a friend with a purple crayon.
Obviously, what makes the story in this wordless picture book so wonderful is the pictures. The girl’s world is boring–sepia colored–until she finds the magical crayon. The worlds she enters thereafter are lush and colorful. The watercolor, pen, and ink illustrations are highly detailed and invite closer study. I can definitely see why this one won a Caldecott honor, bested only by Brian Floca’s Locomotive. I couldn’t help but be reminded a little bit of Harold and the Purple Crayon, and the DLM serendipitously picked it out of our huge picture book anthology to read the very same day we read Journey. Journey gets a Highly Recommended from the House of Hope. It’s one I’d love to add to our collection. (Candlewick Press, 2013)
I had friends tell me, “You’re crazy to do this in watercolor.” But all my favorite books for kids are in watercolor. –Aaron Becker
(I couldn’t agree with Becker more.)
Here’s a wonderful little video about Becker’s journey making Journey.
- Aaron Becker’s website (see his illustrations here)
- NYT Book Review cover illustration by Aaron Becker (How I’d love one of these!)
- Aaron Becker’s blog
- Interview with Aaron Becker at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast