Aaron Becker’s first wordless picture book, Journey came out in August 2013 and received a Caldecott honor in 2014. There’s a scene in the book near the beginning where the main character, a young girl seemingly unmoved and bored by her life takes a red crayon, draws a door on her wall and ends up in some mystical woods which are lit dimly with blue lanterns. This picture resonated with me for days and that is just the beginning!
Before, life for the young girl was dull and lonely. The illustrations highlight the monotony; browns painted on the pages; the cast of people in her life going about their business as usual while the young girl seems somewhat out of sorts and ostracized. That is until she takes matters into her own hands and has adventures only those with the most daring of hearts can imagine. The girl draws her own vision and treks fearlessly through a landscape that has been so thoughtfully prepared by the author and it is breathtaking to witness. Her quest is what every great childhood should consist of- laying down the foundations for creating your own destiny and being in charge of it!
Becker’s illustrations are amazing. Incredibly detailed watercolor paintings narrate the young girl’s journey without the need for any words. The book is remarkably meticulous. If you look inside the engine room you can see its inner workings and in an article he wrote for a front page New Yorker submission he describes the process he goes through to produce the cover including looking at Google Earth; laying out the building brick by brick in 3-D computer software to create the scene. The first book is a feast for the eyes. It is intricate and yet sparse, and the plot evolves with every turn of the page ending with our young protagonist finding a friend.
Quest, the second book in the series takes off where Journey ends. The boy and girl find themselves with a King who hands them something very important for their quest. This book has a much faster pace. The children unravel a very colorful mystery and you will want to follow along to see what happens as they venture to rescue the King.
The books are not simply about the journey. The architecture is beautiful- the castle modeled after Mont. St Michel in Normandy, France is just breathtaking and the other buildings are equally magnificent. The book is also about bravery, intellect and empathy.
This August the final book in the trilogy, Return will be released. Be sure to reserve a copy because after you read the first two, you’ll be hooked!
As a side note and speaking of characters with crayons, Playtime Poppy will be showcasing a vignette from Harold and the Purple Crayon put on by Washington High students here at Cedar Rapids Public Library on Saturday, April 16th at 10.30am-11.30am. The play is also being performed at Washington High School April 21st -23rd. Tickets are $4.