Kid Lit Review of “Journey” by Aaron Becker

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Aaron Becker is primarily known for his work on films like “The Polar Express,” and you can see the influence of his cinematic background in this story of a flight of fancy taken by a lonely girl. This book brings to mind not only Maurice Sendak and Brian Selznick, but also Steven Spielberg and Robert Zemeckis. The author/illustrator uses pen-and-ink drawings painted over with watercolors that vary from the sepia of the little girl’s lonely and boring home life to the richer colors of her imagined adventures through a magic door she colors onto her bedroom wall.

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Once outside her room, the little girl enters a spectacular kingdom and encounters a number of challenges which require her to draw her way to safety. She also frees a captured bird, following it back into her own world, where she finally meets a friend.

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The landscapes are wondrous: intricately drawn, somewhat medieval, somewhat steampunk, and somewhat evocative of the Madeline books by Ludwig Bemelmans. But I think that’s the point of a book like this: not only does its wordlessness allow you to fill in the story with your imagination, but the breadth and depth of the illustrations do as well.

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Discussion: Some of my favorite books are wordless. They allow children to supply the dialogue through their imaginations, forcing them to think about what is being depicted and what it might mean, allowing for endless creative interpretations. The pictures in this book are not as simple to analyze as, for example, the wordless books by Tommi dePaola (which are in fact meant for much younger children), so it asks readers to concentrate and ponder. Younger readers can still enjoy this book on a purely visual level at the very least, and those not as adept at reading words will discover just how much they can glean from clues besides letters.

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Evaluation: This is definitely a book for all ages to explore together.

Rating: 4/5

Published by Candlewick Press, 2013

Awards

Caldecott Honor Book
2013 Goodreads Choice Awards
Amazon’s Best Children’s Books of 2013
Amazon’s Best Children’s Books of 2013
Goodreads Choice Award
2013 New York Times Best Illustrated
Junior Library Guild Selection

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9 Responses to Kid Lit Review of “Journey” by Aaron Becker

  1. This was definitely one of my favourite picture books from last year. So, so good.

  2. Beth F says:

    Wow! Love the illustrations.

  3. BermudaOnion says:

    That looks gorgeous – the pictures you featured look like they belong in frames.

  4. What a breathtaking book! Love the illustrations.

  5. This looks like a lovely book! I wonder whether my 10-year-old would still enjoy a picture book. I can imagine this being a wonderful imaginative journey.

  6. Belle Wong says:

    This looks like a beautiful book, Jill. Dylan just turned eleven, but this is exactly the kind of book he’d love.

  7. These illustrations are so gorgeous. I want to buy the book and rip it apart and decorate my walls with it. Which, um, makes me feel sort of like Cruella de Vil, but with books instead of Dalmatians.

  8. Biblibio says:

    I have a thing for wordless books. Maybe it’s silly, maybe it’s a weird side-effect of being bilingual and always hoping to share kids books between my two languages, but whatever it is – I like wordless picture books. And I liked Journey. I don’t think it’s the best example of a wordless story that inspires multiple interpretations (not like The Arrival, which I always manage to read slightly differently), but it’s a lovely example nonetheless.

  9. I love wordless picture books(as you can see from my blog) I think Becker has leased new credibility into these books. I’m eagerly awaiting the follow up book ‘Quest’
    You are right in saying wordless picture books allow for more creativity and interpretations. No one story is right!

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