For those taking the time to look, patterns of three can be found repeatedly in our collective cultures, its literature and religion. Every living thing has birth, life and death. Time is measured in the past, present and future. Stories have a beginning, middle and an ending. In nursery rhymes there are three little kittens, three blind mice and three bags of wool. We have listened to and read the tales and an assortment of variations of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, The Three Billy Goats Gruff and The Three Little Pigs. Characters are given three guesses and three wishes. How often have we heard the third time is the charm?
Journey (Candlewick Press).
The story in book two, Quest (Candlewick Press, August 26, 2014) begins on the title page. The girl and the boy she met in Journey are continuing to ride a tandem bicycle they drew using her red marker and his purple marker. Seeking shelter beneath a bridge during a rain shower, they are asked by the King of Pallonezia, who steps through a doorway, to assist in saving him and his kingdom. Following a map, they travel to particular prominent points in other lands gathering pieces of light which hold a promise. Their success is a crowning achievement for them and their companion, a purple phoenix.
Readers' patience was rewarded with the release of Return (Candlewick Press, August 2, 2016) conceived and illustrated by Aaron Becker. This third wordless volume is as fascinating as the previous two. It is a more intimate and moving conclusion than Journey or Quest; the completion of a circle.
As in the first book, the girl brings her red kite and red ball to her father, who is drawing at his drafting table. He is too busy to notice her requests. She goes back to her bedroom drawing a red door and steps back into Pallonezia carrying the ball with her. Later her father looks down at the floor noticing her dropped red kite. Going into her bedroom, he sees and walks through the doorway.
In the distance his daughter's red ball is on the dock. As a strange mechanical dragon floats by him, he steps on board. It carries him along the waterways to Pallonezia and the platform where his daughter, the King, the boy and the purple phoenix have gathered. Before any familial issues can be resolved, the evil emperor is revealed.
In the ensuing chaos some are able to escape due to the boy's creativity but it's only temporary before tragedy strikes again. The inventive, quick-thinking daughter rescues a few. Cave walls tell a tale. Wickedness arrives intent on capturing all goodness. A trap is sprung...twice. An artist and a daughter close a distance and step through a door of possibilities.
Whether you have read the two previous books or not, looking at the open dust jacket you are fully aware the girl carrying a red marker and a red ball has just entered an extraordinary world. The lights and lanterns are glowing in the evening darkness as fireflies blink off and on. You may wonder why she is wearing a crown. You may also wonder why on the back, to the left, a crown has settled on the bottom of a sea with two fish and a seahorse wondering the same thing. Beneath the jacket on a cloth cover of deep steel blue a kite is embossed.
The opening and closing endpapers are similar to those found in the first volume, a rich red in color with sketches of images. These illustrations ask us to engage in activities like baseball, fishing, checkers, skating or reading. With a page turn Aaron Becker starts this story on the title page. There are hints of events to come in this first visual of the daughter in her father's study/studio.
Rendered in watercolor, pen and ink the illustrations continue with a cutaway of the girl's home as she draws the red door to reenter Pallonezia. (I found myself comparing this picture with the cutaway in Journey.) With a single exception all of the full or double page pictures extend edge to edge. When Becker places several smaller vignettes on white space it is to show a quick succession of time or intensify a specific moment. Becker's lush landscapes will have you gasping for breath either in awe of the panorama spread before you or at the tension in a situation right before your eyes. His intricate fine lines and exquisite attention to detail will have you flipping back and forth through the pages.
One of my favorite illustrations is a close-up picture of the father on his arrival to Pallonezia. He is standing on the dock along the stream holding his daughter's red ball. Floating around the corner is the mechanical dragon. Lanterns are strung from tree to tree. Fireflies are flying through the forest. The lights are reflected in the water. You can feel the balmy air. You can hear the night noises. Your senses are shifting into high alert.
Return conceived and illustrated by Aaron Becker is a marvelous, magical adventure exploring the strength which comes from allowing our imaginations to freely explore. Friendship, loyalty, family and love are woven throughout this final journey, quest and return to home. It is a wonderfully rewarding read for all ages.
To discover more about Aaron Becker and the two previous titles please visit his website by following the link attached to his name. To view interior images please follow this link to the publisher's website. The publisher has created an Aaron Becker's The Journey Trilogy Activity Kit. The book cover premiere for this title is found at All The Wonders hosted by teacher librarian Matthew Winner. The book trailer premiere is at 100 Scope Notes hosted by teacher librarian Travis Jonker. Aaron Becker visits All The Wonders Podcast, Episode 277 hosted by Matthew Winner. Aaron Becker visits KidLit TV in an interview with Rocco Staino on StoryMakers and on Ready Set Draw! Aaron Becker's Watercolor Journey. Aaron Becker was previously interviewed at Smart Books for Smart Kids, School Library Journal, and KidLit 411. He is the subject of a post at The Huffington Post. Enjoy the videos.
To celebrate the release of Return the final volume in Aaron Becker's triology, Candlewick Press is giving away a copy of Journey and Quest.