Review: Journey October 10, 2013Posted by ccbooks in Book Reviews.
Harold (he of the purple crayon) has a new friend. This time, the magic drawing implement is red. The nameless protagonist of Aaron Becker’s Journey is left to her own devices when mother, father and older sister are engrossed in their various devices. The sepia toned opening panels give a sense of a slightly older time period (cordless phone, bulky desktop computer) but technology then was clearly just as isolating as smartphones and tablets are today. In her room by herself, Becker’s heroine picks up a red crayon and starts drawing…on the wall. And a door appears.
Who hasn’t wished for a magical door into another world? On the other side, a forest fills both pages; majestic trees, a flowing stream and luminous blue lanterns. Looking at this spread felt like coming home; it was exactly the kind of secret world that I had pictured as a kid exploring my backyard. The next pages follow the heroine as she draws herself a boat, is welcomed into a fantastical city and takes off in a balloon after a captured bird. The city, (which has a steampunk, Escher feel to it) begins as a land of wonder, but turns sinister when the girl is captured in place of the bird. Fortunately she has friends to help rescue her, both in the city and back in her own world.
Becker achieves a brilliant balance in this book between dreamlike sketches and precise details. Figures are tiny and expression is often implied through gesture rather than facial details. The towers, streets, canals and machines of the city are rendered exquisitely, the lush spreads alternating with close-ups from the point of view of the character. The one page that felt out of place to me was when the protagonist had to draw her method of escape from the cage. To go from a color page to a completely white background felt jarring and I wasn’t sure initially what was going on. Without some kind of partial background or object to ground the image, it seemed like we had stepped out of the story momentarily. This however, is a quibble. Becker is clearly a major new talent and I’m excited to see more of his work. I cannot wait to share this journey with students and hear their thoughts on the backstory of the city, the characters and predictions as to where this magical girl might go next.