It’s not very often that you hear of a trilogy of picture books; I frequently see popular series for early readers or for older kids, but picture books seldom seem to get the opportunity to tell a story longer than thirty-two pages. Thankfully, Aaron Becker’s beautiful wordless Journey trilogy has busted that trend. I first discovered Journey back in early 2014 when I wrote a post about wordless picture books; since then, the trilogy has been completed with Quest (2014) and Return (2016). I think these types of books are so much fun to read; in addition to featuring beautiful art, they present such an opportunity for creativity for the reader as well, interpreting what the characters might be saying or choosing words to add to the images. A huge adventure unfolds over the course of these three stories, on the scale of some epic, 300-page novels you might be familiar with. Magical kingdoms, underwater exploring, flights from danger, trickery, deceit, broken and restored relationships: it’s all here. Becker has painted a story that is both beautiful to look at and beautiful to experience.
The first book, Journey, begins with the wise implementation of an important tool of the imagination; color. Bored at home and searching for someone to play with, a girl notices a bright red piece of chalk on her bedroom floor. She picks it up and draws a door on her wall. Lo and behold, the door opens, and she steps into another world. (It’s very Harold and the Purple Crayon–like.) In moments of crisis on the girl’s adventure, the chalk becomes a tool to create what she needs; a boat, a hot air balloon, a flying carpet. Journey ends with the beginning of a friendship; a vivid purple bird in the magical world leads the girl back to its creator, a boy with his own piece of chalk. This story ends with them cycling off together, in search of further adventures.
Quest picks up right where Journey left off; caught in the rain, the boy and girl are surprised by a man dressed as a king who steps through a door in the park they are visiting. The king gives the friends a map, and explains that their mission is to retrieve six colors from various places in the magical world. It’s amazing what Becker can convey through images; the sense of peril in this story is heightened when, just as the king has finished his explanation, he is captured by soldiers and taken away, leaving his orange chalk behind. As the children seek to fulfill their mission, it becomes clear that the soldiers are also in search of the colors. At this point we’ve seen so many fun examples of what the colors can create that it’s very disconcerting to think of them in the hands of an enemy. Thankfully, everything works out for the best, and after being given their own crowns by the king himself, our heroes are left back in the park where they started, setting the stage for….
Return. This last book opens on a different scene; brimming with tales over her adventures, the girl tries to get the attention of her dad, hard at work in his art studio. Finally giving up, she goes back to the magic world to meet up with the boy and the king, and eventually the dad follows, amazed at what he is seeing. Before everyone can get well acquainted, however, the soldiers return, this time with a magic box that somehow captures some of the colors inside it. The boy and the king are captured, but the girl and her dad escape, and it’s up to them to mount a rescue mission and save the colors. The ending is lovely, so I won’t spoil it here…but I think this is my favorite of the trilogy. The relationship between the girl and her dad is such a great reminder to leave time for play with our loved ones. I love the idea of the boy and girl drawing the grown-up into their imaginative adventure. Each time I read these books I notice another nuance that I didn’t catch before, or some new pattern that follows throughout the story. The illustrations are so rich that I could include paragraphs of detail here; but it’s better if you just pick them up and see for yourself! Enjoy the Journey trilogy.
Featured image courtesy of Aaron Becker, storybreathing.com