by Aaron Becker

'Destined to meet,' from Aaron Becker's 'Journey.' Cropped image from inside facing pages with title superimposed.

Aaron Becker's Journey

Book review by Steve Barancik

Ages 4-10

Haroldine and the Red Crayon!

Author Aaron Becker goes the wordless route in presenting us an unnamed girl (6 years old, perhaps?) without anyone to play with.

Journey by Aaron Becker - summary

She's a city girl, and most of the neighborhood kids are otherwise occupied with each other. (If she had noticed the one boy her age standing alone with a curiously purple crayon, there would be no story.)

She leaves her lonely stoop and goes into her apartment. Her mother is busy in the kitchen. Her dad is on the computer. Her older sister, of course, is on her "device."

(Remember Blackout, another Caldecott Honor book with similar setting and circumstance?)

She retreats to her room, where even the cat doesn't want to spend time with her. But the cat's departure reveals something useful: a red crayon.(Or, perhaps, chalk.)

cropped image from Aaron Becker's wordless 'Journey'

She draws a new door on the wall, and uses it to escape her (currently) dreary existence.

She encounters a forest lit with lanterns - drawing herself a boat to navigate the river that runs through it - then drifts to a castle-like city best navigated by boat.

From there she floats off a precipice into the sky - drawing a hot-air balloon that comes in quite handy - where she encounters a world quite reminiscent of David Wiesner's Sector 7.

There she glimpses the capture of a beautiful purple bird. Risking life and limb to rescue it, it leads her back (via magic carpet) to its creator...

That little boy on her block with the purple crayon.

Journey by Aaron Becker - review

Color is the key to seeing what the little girl sees and understanding her choices.

You're only seeing half the forest! Becker's image spans two pages.

Flashes of red (and purple/lavender) are the "clues" that lead our hero step by step on our journey. (While the fantasy world she steps into is brighter than her urban existence, Becker still presents images that are largely monochromatic, so that the red and purple stand out.)

Clearly inspired by the three books cited above, Becker's book is the first of the four to give us a girl for a central character. This appears to be Becker's first published book, making his Caldecott Honor all the more impressive.

The story strikes me as easier to puzzle out than a typical Wiesner story, and the characters rendered with less specificity. Becker saves the details for his huge settings, on which the character usually appears small, rendering her adventure more epic.

In fact, Adventure might have been a more apt title for this book, as the girl's journey is anything but passive in nature. But have no doubt, Journey is a terrific book, because it isn't just boys who get lonely and bored sometimes and need to know how to retreat into imagination.

More of Steve's children's book reviews.

Harold and the Purple Crayon on Amazon.

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