Written and Illustrated by Aaron Becker
Candlewick Press, 2013
Awards: Caldecott Honor
Recommended by: Anthony (California)
Who is Anthony? I used to do improv with Chris. Now I write for TV and theatre and do improv shows without Chris (because she is so very far away).
How did you discover this book? It was a gift from a friend.
What do you like about it? I only recently discovered this book when it was given to my daughter, Eleanor. But it’s beautiful and exciting and a joy to “read” (there are no words). It’s been a big hit in our house. So we have read it hundreds and hundreds of times.
The plot in a nutshell: A bored girl travels into another world
The girl’s family is all too busy to play with her, so she takes her red crayon and draws a door on her wall. Going through it, she finds herself in a beautiful forest, with hanging lanterns and a river. She draws a boat and sails it down the river to an island city with canals running through it. When her boat sails right off the end of one, she draws a hot air balloon and floats away from the city, toward an airship. She sees an emperor capture a beautiful purple bird and put it in a cage. She sneaks onto the airship and frees the bird, but the emperor’s men grab her. He throws her crayon away and she is locked in a cage. The purple bird returns, bringing her crayon, which she uses to make a red carpet that carries her out of danger. The bird leads her to a purple door drawn into a tree in the desert. They both go through the door and come out of a mailbox in her neighborhood, where a boy with a purple crayon has been waiting for the bird. The boy and girl each draw a circle and make a bicycle that they ride away on together, with the purple bird flying behind.
This is the first book from author/illustrator Aaron Becker and is also the first book in what will eventually become a trilogy. The second book, Quest, came out earlier this year and picks up these characters where Journey left off. Since these books are wordless, the story is open to interpretation and discussion, which adds a level of enjoyment when sharing the book with a child. Of course, you can’t overlook the obvious comparison to Harold and the Purple Crayon, but this book takes that basic concept and adds so much to it, giving the main character (and the reader) a gorgeously envisioned world to explore.
The watercolor artwork is stunning and colorful, with intricate details in the architecture and landscapes. The colors and tone change as the girl moves through the different regions and different times of day. Keen observers will spot the boy with the purple crayon on the acknowledgments page, standing near the mailbox that shows up again at the story’s end. And is that the purple bird up in the sky at the beginning? It’s little details like this that make excellent springboards for discussion and imagination. This book is a real joy to read.
And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that an active imagination can change your life in lots of ways.