Journey by Aaron Becker was definitely one of the most exciting picture books of 2013 and I was thrilled when it won a Caldecott Honor in January of this year. As someone who has read books out loud professionally and parentally for over 20 years and as someone who holds a deep appreciation for picture book illustrations, wordless picture books have always held a special place in my heart. And head - it takes more than a little thinking and planning before reading a wordless picture book to a group of little listeners. One of the first articles I wrote for this blog was How to Read a Picture Book Without Words (Out Loud). While there is much to be gained from the quiet fascination that comes with "reading" a wordless picture book on one's own, there is also much to be gained from the communal experience of "reading" a wordless picture book with a group, interpreting and enhancing the story together. Aaron Becker's books have so much to offer to a singular reader devouring Journey and the sequel, Quest, alone, and even more when experienced together.
The protagonist from Journey, a lonely girl who discovers a red crayon with magical capacities and a friend along the way, returns in Quest. As does their travel companion, an exotic purple bird. While getting out of the rain under a bridge, a king bursts through a door pleading, silently, for their help before he is dragged away by a band of soldiers. He leaves them with an orange crayon to add to their collection and a strange map.
The friends soon realize what their mission is and they are off again across sweeping landscapes with stunning vistas. In the interest of building stamina in the students who visit my library, I have been reading up on this subject and learned of something referred to as the "reading zone." This space is entered when, while reading a book, the reader falls into the story and becomes part of that world so intensely that the real world goes silent. Becker, and all the best creators of wordless picture books (see below) entice readers to this state, this "reading zone," with pictures alone! And, while there may not be words, there is definitely a visual language that must be interpreted and internalized by the reader in order to follow the story and slip into the world. Sometimes this is achieved with familiar and iconic images, sometimes the characters are so compelling that the reader follows them and understands their plight implicitly, through their actions only. Becker definitely accomplishes this with Journey and now with Quest!
Find more reviews of my favorite wordless picture books HERE or visit my Pinterest board of Wordless Picture books!
Source: Review Copy