Journey by Aaron Becker is quite an extraordinary book but as a wordless book it poses challenges when introducing it to a class. We felt that it was a picture book that one could spend a great deal of time poring over the detail within each page. Some of you mentioned they felt the best way to introduce this book was through displaying it on a whiteboard by using a document camera. Through this technology the whole class can look at the page and be involved in the discussion.
Much of our conversation revolved around Becker’s use of colour and his use of white space. We noted the bright splashes of red and blue that he employs to indicate contrast, movement and the transition from one imaginary world to the next. We discussed our various ideas of what we believed the red marker signified and noted the author/illustrator’s own comment that he uses his own red marker every day. We thought it would be an interesting activity for children to be given a coloured marker to see where it would take them.
The changes from sepia illustrations to full colour to line drawings on white background were particularly significant. It was felt that the pages that incorporated a lot of white space with the small figure going through the doorway, for example, provided a sense of anticipation that was then fulfilled with the full colour double spread image of a new world. We also loved the way the author merged the colours together to symbolise the growth of the new friendship between the little girl and the little boy. On our first reading some of us noticed on the left page the little boy with his purple marker whilst some of us needed to go back and look a second time. This just reinforced to us the time that is needed to embrace a book like this. Aaron Becker on constructing this book notes,
Pictures have always been very powerful for me. I think this is the case for most kids, but we’re so bombarded by imagery these days that it’s easy to lose touch with those images that might require a bit more time to digest. Kids, however, can be patient enough to spend the time sifting through a wordless book for hidden details or secondary meanings. While some books are there simply to entertain, others allow children to become fully immersed into their fictions. They encourage us to touch down into something a bit more fundamental within ourselves.
We also noted how pictorially Becker manages to convey the loneliness and isolation that the little girl feels – in his early pages the family is busy and whilst they are all home they are each in their own spaces and not connected as a family. We discussed the reality of busy lives but noted that it is because of her family members’ inattention that the little girl is required to use her own imagination. It reminded some of us of our own childhoods when parents were busy and children were told to go off and play. We contrasted our upbringings with today’s society where parents (rightly or wrongly) seem to be frightened of boredom and so much more invested in providing entertainment for their children.
There is so much to discuss with this beautiful book, from the fantastical modes of transport, the detail of the buildings and architecture to the development of characters. This picture book opens up a whole range of activities that could be used in the classroom. One strategy that we discussed that could be effective was the thinking activity – firstly “I see” – what do you see?, secondly, “I think” – what do you think is happening?, and finally, “I wonder” – what do you wonder?